'Operation Moses' Is Not Finished

In the winter of 1985 the world was astonished to discover that Israel had launched a massive airlift to
rescue a long-forgotten remnant of the Jewish people, the black Jews of Ethiopia, more commonly known as
the Falashas.

"Operation Moses" was indeed a moment of triumph for Israel and the Jewish people. In a single stroke, Israel
demonstrated to the world that Zionism and racism should never be uttered in the same breath and, at the same
time, vindicated the raison d'etre of Israel--that the Jewish state is the place for the ingathering of all the Jewish

It also was a great moment for all Americans because the United States placed its own national security
interests in Africa at risk to help carry out the humanitarian gesture of saving the Ethiopian Jews. Now, nearly
two years later, the Jews of Ethiopia are all but forgotten.

American Jewry rallied around the cause of the Ethiopian Jews and raised money to help finance the rescue
and absorption of the thousands who had made the perilous journey from Ethiopia to the refugee camps in the
Sudan. When premature publicity of the rescue operation caused the airlift to stop, close to 1,000 were left
stranded in the camps. But the Israelis, Congress and the Reagan administration would not abandon them. The
result was the CIA-run operation designed to clean out the refugee camps of the remaining Ethiopian Jews.
When the CIA operation ended in March, 1985, people believed that all but a handful of the Ethiopian Jews had
been brought to Israel. They did not know that thousands had never reached the Sudan. Today it is estimated
that 8,000 to 12,000 Jews remain in Ethiopia, where they are still prevented by the government from
immigrating to Israel.

It is particularly tragic that most of these people have been separated from other members of their family who
were rescued and taken to Israel. While the sight of Ethiopian children in the absorption centers in Israel singing
Hebrew songs is a cause for celebration, it is also a source of anguish because of the knowledge that many of
them are orphans whose parents either died during the difficult trip from their villages to the Sudan, perished in
the squalid conditions of the refugee camps or were left behind in Ethiopia. What is even more tragic is that
most people are unaware of this situation because of the misconception that the airlift had rescued them all.
The Ethiopian Jews are an ancient people who retained their Jewishness for centuries under severe hardships.
Their faith allowed them to survive in Ethiopia; in Israel, however, they are given the chance to thrive. Leaving
their primitive African conditions, these people, when introduced in Israel to modern technology and given the
opportunity for education and training, adjust to Western society with remarkable speed.

Those remaining in Ethiopia, however, while clinging to their faith, are confined to the lowest class and denied
the benefits of education and employment. Although they are not persecuted by the official policy of the Marxist
government, they have long been subjected to discrimination by their neighbors because of historical and
cultural prejudice. Their condition is further exacerbated by the fact that most live in regions plagued by famine
and fighting between government troops and antigovernment rebels.

"Operation Moses" saved 8,000 Ethiopian Jews and their community from extinction, but the rescue will not be
complete until all of the Falashas are brought home to Israel. Unlike the 1940s, we cannot claim ignorance of
the plight of Jews in other lands. We know the Falashas are still suffering in Ethiopia and yearn for freedom. We
cannot leave them to their fate. This ancient community of biblically practicing Jews must not be forgotten.