I’ve been reading a lot of Ethiopia-themed books lately (I was pleasantly surprised at how well stocked our library was for kids’ books), as I’m trying to thoroughly embrace our family’s new heritage. One of the books I came across is called The Return by Sonia Levitin and it tells the incredible story of Operation Moses.
Operation Moses was a covert evacuation of Ethiopian Jews (also known as Beta Israel) in 1984. Facing religious persecution and famine in Ethiopia under the dictatorship of Mengistu Haile Mariam, some 13,000 Jews escaped Ethiopia on foot and made for Sudan. Israel then airlifted the refugees to safety with the secret cooperation of the Sudanese government. It’s estimated that 4,000 died on the way trek to Sudan and another 1,000 were left behind when operation became public and other Arab nations pressured Sudan to stop the secret evacuations.
Many of those left behind in Sudan were later brought to Israel as part of the U.S.-lead follow-up mission, Operation Joshua, in 1985.
The situation didn’t change until 1991 and the Ethiopian revolution when Israel took advantage of the political instability to evacuate the remaining Ethiopian Jews as part of Operation Solomon. More than 14,000 were evacuated in a 36-hour period on 34 different flights. Today there are still several thousand Ethiopian Jews remaining in Ethiopia.
It’s an incredible story and bit of history you don’t really hear about. The Return tells the story from the perspective of a teenage girl who evacuates Ethiopia. The book gives a pretty detailed portrayal of the life of a rural Ethiopian Jew. You actually don’t get much of sense of what was actually happening with Operation Moses until the very end, which for me just prompted more research (and I’d love to do more beyond Wikipedia and a few random articles).
It’s another layer to the incredible history and people of Ethiopia.
I heard a very fascinating report on NPR last week about a new organ donor law in Israel. In response to an extreme shortage of organ donors, Israel decided to take drastic action and enacted a law that seeks to encourage organ donation by penalizing those who refuse to donate. It’s nicknamed ‘Don’t give, Don’t get.’ If an organ is available and two people of similar medical conditions are eligible for the donated organ, priority goes to the one who was a registered organ donor.
If you’re not willing to donate your own organs, you get lower priority when you need an organ.
It’s an interesting bit of medical ethics. While I think in general we should be willing to help people regardless of how much they’re willing to help others, this is a unique situation. A extreme situation calls for extreme action?
What’s funny about the story is that they talk with a rabbi who refuses to donate organs for religious reasons. Yet he’s willing to accept a donated organ if he needed one. They summarize his position so I’m not sure how accurate it is, but he basically reasons that in one instance it’s murder and in another instance they were dead anyway. I think it’s complete hypocritical garbage.
This is what happens when the shoe is on the other foot. If you’re not willing to be a part of the system, why should you benefit from the system? In other instances I’m not sure how well this logic works. What if we denied assistance benefits like unemployment or food stamps to people who refused to fund such assistance programs (not that anyone has such a choice)? What if we denied freedom to those who refused military service (interestingly enough, it’s Israel where serving in the armed forces is mandatory)? What if the Red Cross gave priority to disaster victims who had donated?
And at that point it becomes ridiculous. Admittedly I kind of like the idea of sticking it to people who won’t play along. But I think society has to be more benevolent than that. It’s not love if you only love those who love you back.