Another Inspiring Rescue Story

Inspired by remarkable true life rescue missions, Netflix have just released a film titled: ‘The Red Sea Diving Resort’. It is the amazing story of the way in which thousands of Ethiopian Jews were smuggled to Israel in the early 1980s. Led by Ari Kidron, a group of international agents formed an undercover team to conduct the operation. They refurbished a deserted holiday retreat in Sudan as an elaborate front to conceal their main mission.

This video clip contains intriguing interviews with some of those involved in the original operation.

Release of the film has prompted many articles to be written about this truly remarkable mission. Writing for the BBC, Raffi Berg explains the background. The Ethiopian Jews belonged to a community called Beta Israel (House of Israel), ‘whose origins are shrouded in mystery.’

Some of them had started to join large numbers non-Jewish refugees who crossed the border into Sudan to escape the civil war and a deepening food crisis in Ethiopia.

Raffi Berg recounts how the initial trickle turned into a flow of around 14,000 Beta Israelis who made what was a perilous 500-mile journey by foot, along with over a million other Ethiopians seeking refuge across the Sudanese border.

Some critics have raised concerns about the film portraying a ‘white saviour’ narrative focused on the roles of the Israeli Mossad agents involved. Many people seem to be particularly sensitive about such perceptions these days.

But the film’s director, Gideon Raff, has responded that the Ethiopian community “were true partners in this operation and they are the real heroes of this story.” Consequently, it was important for him to cast actors from the Ethiopian community in the film.

What he really wants people to take from the film is the fact that:

“When you help people, when you understand that we are all part of the same family,
the world becomes a better place.”

The film’s release also happens to have come at a sensitive time, with the recent protests by Ethiopians in Israel after the shooting of an 18-year-old man from their community, who was unarmed at the time. Those protests were also fuelled by the ongoing reality of discrimination within Israeli society.

Nevertheless, it is difficult not to be impressed with the lengths to which the Israelis involved in these events went to help rescue people they saw as fellow Jews, even when their appearance was so different and their origins were mysterious.

And it seems important to recognise that the modern State of Israel has attempted a truly remarkable merger of Jewish people from widely diverse cultural backgrounds.