Photo Credit: Matty Stern, US Govt / public domain
Mordechai Ben Porat, Feb. 16, 2006

Former Israeli Minister and MK Mordechai Ben Porat passed away Monday morning at the age of 98.

“The Ben Porat family, with all its branches and branches, today mourns the passing of “Rosh Hamulah”, Mordechai Ben Porat (David Mordechai), who died tonight in good health at the age of 98,” the lawmaker’s family said in a statement.

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“Mordechai was one of the last generation of the “Elephants” “Ezra and Nehemiah” for the uplifting of the Jews of Iraq, a partner for the uplifting of the Jews of Iran, a man who did and acted for the State of Israel in operations and actions we will never know.

“Generations of the family grew up in his light, way and values. He was a symbol and role model for Zionism and love of country. Our descendants will also continue to grow on his legacy. Peace be upon you, Mordechai, rest in peace on your bed.”

Born “Murad Murad” to a Jewish family in Baghdad, Ben Porat was the oldest of eleven children. His father changed the family name during his early school years to Kazzazz (meaning “silk trader,” the profession of Ben Porat’s grandfather.)

He immigrated to pre-state Israel in 1945, three years after he had joined the underground Hechalutz movement in Iraq. Within three more years he rose through the ranks of the IDF, competing its first officers’ course and fighting as a company commander in the 1948 War of Independence.

One of the founders of the Rafi Party in 1965, Ben Porat and his party joined the Labor Party in 1968. Since 1955 he served as head of the Or Yehuda municipal council, which he founded, and continued at the post for decades more.

But he became even busier upon entering the Knesset, first as a Labor lawmaker, eventually becoming Deputy Speaker of the Israeli parliament. He later also served as a minister without portfolio in the government of Prime Minister Menachem Begin, remaining in the same post when Yitzhak Shamir succeeded Begin. Eventually he served four terms in the Knesset, representing five different parties.

Ben Porat founded the World Organization of Jews from Arab Countries in 1975, serving as its president. Just four years later, in 1979, he was sent by the Jewish Agency for Israel to assist with the evacuation of Iranian Jews.

In 1988, he joined the Likud Party, placing 52nd on its list for the 13th Knesset.

Ben Porat was awarded the Israel Prize for “Lifetime Achievement and Special Contribution to Society and the State” in 2001 for his role in helping rescue the Jews of Iraq and Iran, as well as a “Medal of Appreciation” named for Begin. In 2003, he was awarded the Ben Gurion Prize for “Lifetime Achievement and Special Contribution to Society and the State,” and two years later he was awarded the “Shofar Herut Award” by the Jewish community in Albany, New York.

Ben Porat is survived by daughters Edith, Michal and Tami.

Baruch Dayan Emet.

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.