"Beta Israel” is one of the oldest jewish communities to have survived the forced exile of the ancient tribes of Israel by the Assyrian and Babylonian empires (722 BC and 586 BC), their presence in Ethiopia is mentioned in the Biblical Book of Esther in connection to events dated to 480 BC and subsequently reported at the year 900 AD by Eldad ha Dani of mixed Yemenite and Ethiopian jewish origin, then again by prominent jewish scholars/travelers: Benjamin of Tudela in 1170, Ovadiah of Bertinoro in 1488 and Rabbi David ben Zimra who defined them as Jews descendants of the tribe of Dan in 1503. Until the coming of French Prof. Joseph Halevy to Ethiopia in 1865 the Ethiopian Jews were unaware of the existence anywhere of other Jews than themselves and thus their determined and consistent aim was to survive as Jews and return to Zion (Jerusalem) to rebuild it. I had the privilege of being the first Israeli to be sent undercover first to Ethiopia and then to Sudan to study and create the infrastructure and modus operandi to evacuate thousands of people reaching the Sudan after trekking hundreds of Miles from their places of origin in Ethiopia through a terribly difficult and dangerous territory. Eventually, using the Red Sea diving resort as cover, I commanded the combined operations with the Israeli navy and the first clandestine airlifts from deep inside Sudan with the Air Force. For me, the climatic moments of those four and a half years were - standing in pitch dark nights on the beach watching the navy seals Zodiacs or a Hercules military transport plane near an improvised landing strip in the middle of the desert, moving away, loaded with our people who are about, through sea and air, to fulfill their ancient dream of returning to Zion. In comparison, the anxious moments when we were being car chased, shot at and jailed seem anticlimactic in hindsight. None of this could have happened without the perseverance of an undercover team of courageous and creative Israelis, men and women and especially the brotherly cooperation (hence Operation Brothers) with a great number of Beta Israel elders and youngsters, many of them displaying outstanding bravery and audacity. Despite all the difficulties involved in integrating into the restless and often intolerant Israeli society, their idealism and stamina are getting them there, slowly but surely. Eventually we will look at this Aliyah as being one of the most meaningful chapters of recent jewish history.
Dani Limor Commander of Operation Brothers