James Wooten

Close to the Heart

Rabbi Emeritus Herbert Morris frequently remembers Alaska's contribution to Operation Magic Carpet. He carries around a dog-eared newspaper clipping in his vest pocket. It's an obituary. And he's carried it for many years.

The obituary describes a man who "all of a sudden was involved in something greater than himself. What he did as a human being is the essence of religion and I was honoring that man's memory."

James WootenRabbi Morris still talks reverently about the role that James Wooten (pictured at right), President of Alaska Airlines 50 years ago, played in Operation Magic Carpet—an airlift that brought thousands of Yemenite Jews to Israel to escape persecution.

"My business is knowing about the miracles that happen every day," Morris said recently from his home in San Francisco. "One of those miracles was Alaska Airlines delivering the Yemenite Jews to the land of their ancestors. That was a man doing God's holy work on this earth."

Wooten was the driver behind Alaska's participation in the airlift, and he played a key role in the logistics of the nearly year-long operation that made the mission successful despite many challenges.

"It was marvelous that a man, a group of men, stretched forth their wings and delivered the Yemenite Jews to their homeland," Morris said. "I read his obituary many years ago and realized what he had done and I've shared his contribution with many groups of people over the years. I've read that obituary to them as an example of what can be done if we put our hearts and hands to a task.

"James Wooten's memory will live on and I'll continue to fly Alaska Airlines every chance I get."