Saving the Lost Tribe: The Rescue and Redemption of the Ethiopian Jews

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9780345450814: Saving the Lost Tribe: The Rescue and Redemption of the Ethiopian Jews

For nearly three thousand years, the black Jews of Ethiopia–known as the Falashas–maintained their faith and their identity in the face of drought, famine, and tribal war. They were indeed the lost tribe, tracing their ancestry to King Solomon and the queen of Sheba. Then in May 1991, these Ethiopian Jews staged a miraculous exodus. With Ethiopia exploding around them in brutal civil war, some fourteen thousand Falashas were safely airlifted to Jerusalem by the Israeli air force over the course of twenty-five harrowing hours. Told by the Israeli ambassador who made it happen, this spellbinding book is the story of that incredible rescue–as well as an extraordinary history of the Falashas, the remarkable people whose faith never waivered, even when confronted with enormous atrocities.

Asher Naim knew practically nothing about the Falashas when he was posted to Addis Ababa by the Israeli government in the fall of 1990, but he instantly found himself swept up in their plight. As rebel forces advanced against Ethiopia’s savage dictator, Mengistu Haile Meriam (“the Butcher of Addis”), it became clear that the Falashas would be slaughtered unless they could be snatched from the violence overwhelming their country.

Naim set to work on several fronts simultaneously–negotiating with Mengistu and his deceptively charming right hand man, coordinating logistics and strategy with the Israeli military, frantically raising money through contacts in America. On May 23, Naim realized it was now or never, and word went out to the Israeli air force: Operation Solomon must begin at once. With twenty thousand Falashas crowding the Israeli embassy compound, the first Israeli planes landed at the Addis airport and a team of crack Israeli commandos took position with instructions to protect the operation “at any cost.” Four hours later, the first planeload of Falashas took off for Israel.

For Asher Naim the rescue of the Falashas became a kind of personal quest–a quest not only to free his fellow Jews from tyranny but also to uphold the sacredness of human life. In helping the Falashas realize their three-thousand-year-old dream of returning to Jerusalem, Naim came to a profoundly new understanding of the nature of faith, identity, and the struggle to endure. Saving the Lost Tribe is a magnificent achievement, a story of hope in the face of chaos and redemption on the brink of disaster.

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From the Back Cover:

“Every man aspires to transform a dream into reality. Asher Naim shared the dream of the Ethiopian Jews and made it come true, extracting over 14,000 Beta Israel from their medieval existence in the midst of a civil war and delivering the community to Israel in a daring airlift. Saving the Lost Tribe is a spellbinding account by the linchpin figure at the vortex of the dramatic developments in Ethiopia. It is a tale told with compassion, insight, and oh so much love.”
–BOB HOUDEK
Chief of the American mission to Ethiopia, 1988-1991

“Only twice in history have Blacks been taken from the African continent–not for slavery or exploitation–but for love and a better life. Both instances involved the Black Jews of Ethiopia who were taken from the Horn of Africa to Israel. The first was Operation Moses in 1985. The second and larger exodus was Operation Solomon in 1991 and involved the movement of over 14,000 souls. As head of the American negotiating team, I was privileged to work with Ambassador Naim in bringing about Operation Solomon. But the most magnificent moment was being in Israel in the days immediately after Operation Solomon when the whole country was electrified and joyous about receiving their Black brethren. This enthralling book chronicles this important and very unique piece of history and human compassion.”
–RUDY BOSCHWITZ (U.S. senator, 1978-1991)

About the Author:

Asher Naim, an eminent Israeli diplomat, has served as the cultural attaché to Japan and the U.S. and the Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, Finland, South Korea and Ethiopia. As the founder of the Ethiopian Scholarship Fund for Ethiopian Jews, Naim raises money for young Ethiopians living in Israel who wish to attend college and graduate school.

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