The glorification of Operation Solomon, the 1991 airlift of Ethiopian Jews to Israel, has become the vested interest of certain segments of American Jewry and of the individuals in Israel and abroad who played a role in the operation
By MOSHE GIT
More than four years ago, the editor of the American Jewish World asked me to review the book Operation Solomon: The Daring Rescue of the Ethiopian Jews by Stephen Spector. To my surprise, the book convincingly argued that it was highly possible that the “rescue” was a successful ploy conceived of by some Jewish American groups whose aim was (and still is) to move people, whom they considered “Ethiopian Jews,” to Israel against the wishes of an unenthusiastic Israeli government.
This was accomplished by duping the Israeli and American authorities into believing that those Jews were under imminent danger. As the book suggests, they weren’t, and therefore weren’t in need of being rescued. It is surprising that our local Jewish community didn’t take note of the findings, and even more surprising that the AJW (11-27-09 AJW) has joined in the celebration of the “rescue” without even mildly advising its readers that the rescue could be a myth.
Of course, this doesn’t detract from the commendations that the American and Israeli officials deserve for bringing about the operation; they had no clue that they had been duped.
Myth and history have been entangled with each other since time immemorial. For example, many scholars, Christian included, maintain that the historical Jesus bears little similarity to the Jesus of Christianity.
Even in very recent history, many events thought to be authentic are now suspected as being mythological. For example, Israeli “new historians” have concluded that in the 1948 War of Independence the number of Jewish fighters was greater than the number of Arab fighters, and that Jewish armaments were superior, thus debunking the long established view that Israel’s victory then was miraculous.
Then there is the myth that the Arab refugee problem was created when Arabs willingly evacuated their villages, to allow invading Arab armies a free hand in crushing the Jews. New research has discovered that in many instances the Arabs were “helped” to leave their habitats.
One outstanding newly proclaimed myth is the story of Masada. Research done by Israeli historians, notably Prof. Nachman Ben-Yehuda, of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, even goes so far as to call the familiar story of the last days of Masada “a fraud” (bit.ly/Masada-fraud). In his book, Sacrificing Truth: Archaeology and the Myth of Masada (Humanity Books, 2002), Ben-Yehuda shows how vested interests have created and molded the present myth of Masada to promote national causes. It appears that the adaptation of myths to promote partisan causes has become a science in itself.
Ahad Ha’am (a.k.a. Asher Ginsberg), the noted Hebrew essayist of a century ago, goes even further. His point is that, at times, a myth is crucially more important than bare facts. In his essay “Moses” (Moshe), he states that even if the biblical story of Moses were a myth, this myth is more important than the true facts, since without it Judaism wouldn’t have existed. One may wonder if Operation Solomon’s rescue myth has become as vital to Jewish survival as the story of Moses to warrant suppression of any scrutiny.
The glorification of Operation Solomon’s rescue has become the vested interest of certain segments of American Jewry and of the individuals in Israel and abroad who played a role in the operation. Even the “rescued” Ethiopians have now been brainwashed into believing that they had been rescued.
But, despite being “rescued,” many Ethiopian Jews and many, if not most, Israelis aren’t happy. Members of the Ethiopian community in Israel are being discriminated against in ways reminiscent of the ways blacks had been treated under Jim Crow in the United States.
Israeli schools refuse to accept their children; just recently the city of Petach Tikva refused to admit Ethiopian children to its schools. They find themselves segregated. Crime and suicide are rampant. They are at the bottom of the ladder of Israeli society and a burden on the state. Even one who had “succeeded” (earned a graduate degree), abandoned her given Hebrew name and reverted to her Ethiopian name.
I have heard Ethiopians expressing misgivings about leaving Ethiopia. Have these Ethiopians really been rescued? Have we done them any favor in bringing them to Israel? The jury is still out. But, it seems that most of us could care less about truth — all we care about is to be a part of the epic Jewish story.
Moshe Git lives in Minnetonka.