"The Ethiopian Jewish Exodus"
The Migration Journey to Israel 1977-1985
"Between 1977 and 1985, some 20,000 Jews, (let's call them more credibly "Israelites" as they are confirmed by history and genetic science to be the descendents of the Lost Tribe of Dan from ancient Israel's Northern Kingdom)left their homes in northern Ethiopia and set of for "Jerusalem." -Zion. Drawn to the long-yearned-for Jewish homeland, has been the subject of their prayers for generations. They were pushed by the weakening of Ethiopia's economic situation, a lack of personal security and the political and religious persecution that intensified following the 1974 Marxist revolution in that country.
The road to Zion passed through refugee camps in Sudan, which the escapees reached after wandering over sometimes very difficult terrain for weeks and months on end, and after suffering the hardships inflicted on them by Nature and by other human beings. Their suffering did not end with their arrival at the refugee camps, where they were forced to remain for a lengthy period under assumed identities, and where they suffered persecution, malnutrition and diseases that took many lives. They were slowly smuggled into Israel by air and sea until late 1984 when, in the wake of American and international pressure on the Sudaneese government, permission was granted to fly them by the thousands to Israel in the context of "Operation Moses" and "Operation Queen of Sheba". About one fifth of those who set out from Israel - 4,000 men, women and children - perished along the way.
Now Dr. Ben-Ezer, a psychologist who has devoted most of his professional life to working with the Ethiopian Jewish community in Israel, beaths new life into these facts through tales of their network of associations and religious Zionist images, through which the narrators organize their personal experiences, renders sterile and forces - at least in the case of Ethiopian Jews - the attempts of the "new historians" and "new sociologists" of varying stripes to use the term "immigrants" instead of "olim" (a unique term, literally meaning "those who go up", that is reserved for Jews who haved Returned/moved back home to Israel).
Deep Emotional Scars:
Second, the stories from Ethiopian Jews convey in a painful tangible fashion the highly distressful experiences of those embarking on the journey to Zion. The painful separation from their parents and the break-up of their families; the physical scars they bear from their back-breaking, utterly exhausting journey; the hunger, the thirst and the diseases that were their constant traveling companions; the unfair treatment, the arrests, the tortures and the necessity of relinquishing their possessions( during encounters with soldiers, rebels and robbers, and with treacherous guides who abandoned them in the middle of the desert); the unbearably grim physical conditions; the withering, utterly disillusioning experience of being a refugee in the Sudanese camps; the acts of rape and kidnapping; and, above all, the frequent encounters with death - of friends, neighbors and relatives - that took on the dimensions of a plague in the camps.
These traumatic events left deep emotional scars in the hearts of many of those who participated in the journey; however, at the same time - and this is the third motif that ben-Ezer identifies - they derived immense emotional strength from the fact that they emerged intact from the journey's powerful molding experience. Reverberating throughout these stories is the initiation rite that transformed children and youth into men.
It would have been logical to assume that the three motifs would have been able to grant those who successfully emerged from "Operation Moses" a full-fledged admission ticket to the Zionist Hall of Fame. After all, these Ethiopian Jews arrived in Israel with an amplified sense of an Israeliness-in-the-making. Their experiences blended suffering and bravery in an epic manner that is amazingly similar - or so it would appear - to the ancient stories that constitute the Israeli identity. However, what looked so promising initially underweant a total meltdown in Israel because of the severe adjustment and social integration problems that Ethiopian Israelite immigrants had to deal with. Even if there were several valid objective reasons why the Ethiopian Jews' social integration process failed, we can still ask ourselves why the heroic tales of their journey did not make a deeper and more lasting impression on Israeli society.
If the Ethiopian Jews are not praised to the skies for their heroism, why do we not at least recognize their suffering? Why has their tragic story not become part of the story of victim-advocacy agencies? Is it only a coincidence that no permanent site has yet been asigned to the monument commemorating the Ethiopian Jews who perished in the camps in Sudan? Perhaps this example of indifference can be attributed to the fact that emotional self-restraint is the hallmark of the Ethiopian Jews' ethos. Perhaps the Ethiopian Jews have not been given sufficient public attention because they find the Israeli Nation culture of constantly complaining so alien, and because they have not rushed off to become part of the contemporary discource concerning victims and their sagas, which have become so widely accepted in Israel. source: Haaratz News,
Book: "The Ethiopian Jewish Exodus" by Gadi Ben-Ezer