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Operation Moses

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Operation Moses - Operation Moses was one of several operations conducted by the Israeli government to save Ethiopian Jews and expedite their Aliya (immigration) to Israel. It was not the largest such operation, but it was probably the most daring and ingenious. In the 1980s, a great famine struck Ethiopia. Tens of thousands of people, Jewish and non-Jewish, seeking famine relief, trekked northward to the Sudan where refugee camps were set up under very poor conditions. As many as 4,000 Jews may have died in that trek.

Sudan is a Muslim country  and had no relations with Israel. Nonetheless, Israeli officials were able to negotiate the immigration of Jews who had gathered in the camps, and who were rapidly dying of starvation. They were ferried to Israel by Israeli Seals  (Shayetet 13) and other Navy personnel in landing craft,  as well as by C-130 transport aircraft. But the rate of evacuation was too slow and people continued to die. Beginning November 19, 1984 a massive airlift, operation Moses, was undertaken. It ended January 5, 1985, because of a media leak in Israel that produced Arab pressure on the Sudan.   Some 1,000 Ethiopian Jews were left behind in camps. The revelations about the role of Sudanese officials, who had been heavily bribed, caused upheavals in the Sudanese government. Most of the Jews were taken out in operation Sheba and operation Joshua in March of 1985, with the active assistance of US Vice President George Bush and the CIA. ref  Shortly thereafter, the regime of Joffre Numery was ousted in Sudan, and that route was permanently closed.  The next large scale immigration of Ethiopian Jews had to wait for the disintegration of the Haile Mengistu Mariam regime in Ethiopia, which made possible Operation Solomon in 1991. 

Ami Isseroff

May 3, 2009

Synonyms and alternate spellings:

Further Information: Ethiopian Jews


Hebrew/Arabic pronunciation and transliteration conventions:

'H - ('het) a guttural sound made deep in the throat. To Western ears it may sound like the "ch" in loch. In Arabic there are several letters that have similar sounds. Examples: 'hanukah, 'hamas, 'haredi. Formerly, this sound was often represented by ch, especially in German transliterations of Hebrew. Thus, 'hanukah is often rendered as Chanuka for example.

ch - (chaf) a sound like "ch" in loch or the Russian Kh as in Khruschev or German Ach, made by putting the tongue against the roof of the mouth. In Hebrew, a chaf can never occur at the beginning of a word. At the beginning of a word, it has a dot in it and is pronounced "Kaf."

u - usually between oo as in spoon and u as in put.

a- sounded like a in arm

ah- used to represent an a sound made by the letter hey at the end of a word. It is the same sound as a. Haganah and Hagana are alternative acceptable transliterations.

'a-notation used for Hebrew and Arabic ayin, a guttural ah sound.

o - close to the French o as in homme.

th - (taf without a dot) - Th was formerly used to transliterate the Hebrew taf sound for taf without a dot. However in modern Hebrew there is no detectable difference in standard pronunciation of taf with or without a dot, and therefore Histadruth and Histadrut, Rehovoth and Rehovot are all acceptable.

q- (quf) - In transliteration of Hebrew and Arabic, it is best to consistently use the letter q for the quf, to avoid confusion with similar sounding words that might be spelled with a kaf, which should be transliterated as K. Thus, Hatiqva is preferable to Hatikva for example.

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This work and individual entries are copyright 2005 by Ami Isseroff and Zionism and Israel Information Center and may not reproduced in any form without permission unless explicitly noted otherwise. Individual entries may be cited with credit to The Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Zionism and Israel


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