New Film Depicts Daring Rescue of Ethiopian Jews

Inspired by one of the most remarkable true-life rescue missions ever, The Red Sea Diving Resort is a new film about how the Israeli Secret Service, or Mossad, smuggled thousands of Ethiopian Jews into Israel using a deserted holiday retreat in Sudan as a front.

By David Lazarus |
An Ethiopian security guard seen near Jewish Ethiopian immigrants of the Falash Mura community in Gondar, Ethiopia. An Israeli government initiative plans a series of monthly flights, 'Operation Dove’s Wings', a project to ease the immigration of the remaining members of the Ethiopian Jewish community of Falash Mura into Israel. October 26, 2102. Photo by Moshe Shai/FLASH90 *** Local Caption *** ?????? ???????? ?????? ???? ? ????? ??????? ???? ???????? ??????? ???????? ???? ???????? Photo: Photo by Moshe Shai/FLASH90

The year was 1982 and Israel’s Prime Minister Menachem Begin was determined to rescue the long-lost Ethiopian Jewish tribe, Beta Israel. Jewish communities had been living for centuries in villages in northern Ethiopia still longing to return to Zion. Thousands of the Beta Israel tribe were forced to escape a devastating famine that had decimated millions only to find themselves in war-torn neighboring Sudan. Thousands of Jews died along the way falling victim to starvation, exposure, and outlaws.

Those who survived were left starving with millions of other refugees in filthy camps plagued with disease. Prime Minister Begin called Israel’s Secret Service, the Mossad, and sent them on a mission to rescue the Ethiopian Jewish community and bring them back to Israel.

But how to extract thousands of Jews from Sudan, a Muslim country and member of the Arab League and sworn enemy of Israel? How could the Mossad get them out of enemy territory and back to Israel without raising the suspicions and wrath of the Sudanese national army?

The Mossad agents looked at a map and recognized that both Israel and Sudan have coastlines along the Red Sea, a scuba diver’s and tourist haven with spectacular coral reefs and exquisite tropical fish. So Israeli Mossad agents with European backgrounds posed as business persons working for a Swiss travel agency and began promoting tourism along Sudan’s Red Sea coast. A lucrative and welcome business plan for the failing Sudanese economy. The agents leased an abandoned and bankrupt resort complex along the coast for three years and obtained “official” protection from Sudan’s Tourism Ministry.

Now the Mossad had a “legal” right to operate trucks and buses to bring “tourists” down to the “resort” as well as the boats they needed to ship Jewish refugees across the Red Sea over to Israel. The mission was dubbed “Operation Brothers” which brought thousands of Ethiopian Jews back to Israel. When real tourists began showing up at the Red Sea Diving Resort, all of whom expected to receive quality service, the Mossad plans went belly-up and agents had to come up with some creative, and humorous, solutions quickly.

“Finding more humor and adventure in the story than one would imagine possible given the high stakes of the drama, what resonates most strongly throughout The Red Sea Diving Resort is an indistinguishable pride in the sense of fraternity (the name of the Mossad’s original mission was “Operation Brothers”) between the Israeli and Ethiopian Jews, and the resourcefulness and bravery that bonds them together,” says the San Francisco Film Festival promote for Red Sea Diving Resort which premiers on July 28th as the festival’s closing night film.

The film’s director is Gideon Raff, creator of the acclaimed Israeli series Prisoners of War and an executive producer of its popular American spin-off Homeland.

The movie will be released by Netflix on July 31.



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