Operation Moses – Aliyah of Ethiopian Jewry (1984)


During Operation Moses in 1984 approximately 8,000 Jews made aliyah from Ethiopia. The mission was named “Operation Moses,” after Moshe Rabbenu, and as a symbol of the idea that the redemption of Ethiopian Jews was similar to the Exodus from Egypt.
 

Primary Motivations

 
The dream of Ethiopian Jewry to return to the Land of Israel sustained them throughout the years. Their dream began to be realized in 1975 when the Chief Rabbinate of Israel recognized them as Jews, and with the 1977 Israeli governmental decision to bring them to Israel.  Between 1977-1984 some 8000 Jews gradually arrived in Israel.  Operation Moses was organized in 1984 in order to bring as many Ethiopian Jews as possible to Israel. As the Jews were forbidden to depart Ethiopia it was necessary that the operation remain clandestine. 
 

The Immigrants and Their Journey

 
Ethiopian immigrants, who longed to reach Israel, faced numerous dangers along the way. They first had to secretly make their way to the Sudanese border, which they attempted by arranging small groups to journey together.  The majority traveled on foot, vulnerable to robbers and other violence along the way.  The journey to Sudan typically took between two weeks to a month, and countless numbers perished along the way.  Once across the border, the immigrants languished in camps for long periods until they were able to depart for Israel.  The conditions in the camps were harsh, and many people died in them as well.
 
Operation Moses brought 8000 Jews to Israel; 1500 of them children and young people who arrived without their parents.  The operation was halted as the result of leaks to the press and the fears of the Sudanese government of a backlash from Arab countries.