The Mossad, the Institute for Intelligence and Special Operations, is the national intelligence agency of Israel. They have, over the years, completed many secret missions. One incredible mission is being shared now with the public; the story of how they assisted thousands of Ethiopian Jews to make the journey to Israel.
Raffi Berg has written the definitive work on the exploits of the Mossad, who helped Ethiopian Jews who were walking hundreds of kilometers across dangerous terrain in their effort to reach Jerusalem. What started as small groups of escapees using fake credentials to fly out of the Sudan to Israel grew into large groups of people being smuggled out of the country on boats, which finally led to major airlifts out of the desert in the dead of night.
It is a fascinating story of bravery, dedication and subterfuge. The Mossad agents who took part in this project were never allowed to tell anyone what they were doing, not even their families.
When they were being hired to participate, they were not told what the job would be until after they had passed a series of tests and agreed to take on the mission.
The Ethiopian Jewish community has existed for centuries, driven by an ancestral longing to return to the land of their forefathers. It wasn’t until 1977 when Menachem Begin recognized them as true members of the Jewish community that Israel began to assist in their immigration.
Dani Limor is the legend behind this operation, along with Ferede Aklum, an Ethiopian whose determination to escape to Jerusalem brought him to the attention of the Israeli agency. He and Limor, who led the evacuation operation, laid the foundation of a secret network of Mossad operatives that would use naval and air support from Israel to deliver thousands of Ethiopian Jewish refugees to Israel.
The idea of taking an abandoned resort, renovating it, and opening it up as a tourist destination was a brilliant cover for the Mossad agents working to help refugees onto boats heading for Israel. Tourists would enjoy going out on boats, diving and snorkelling during the day. “At the end of the day, relax in the friendly atmosphere of the games room. Have a refreshing drink, a game of darts and then an excellent meal in the Arous restaurant, where fresh fish is served daily,” read the brochure for the resort. The resort was, explained the pamphlet, “unique in all the world.” This claim was actually true. What the guests never knew was that the diving instructors who showed them how to scuba dive and took them out on excursions during the day were, in fact, Mossad divers who helped bring the Ethiopian Jews onto boats just off the coast after dark.
This book reads like a fascinating thriller, explaining the history of the Ethiopian refugees, their Jewish practices and commitment to taking daring chances to return to their homeland. Looking at the Israeli government’s acceptance of the Ethiopian Jews and how it became the most important project of Limor’s career and the Mossad to assist these people in their journey.
Merle Eisman Carrus resides in New Hampshire and writes book reviews for the NH Jewish Reporter newspaper. She is a graduate of Emerson College and received her Masters of Jewish Studies from Hebrew College. She blogs her book reviews at firstname.lastname@example.org