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October 27, 1989 - Image 116

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-10-27

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

ISRAEL

YOUR GEO
HEADQUARTERS

Ethiopian Jews Suffer
For Missing Families

CARL ALPERT

Special to The Jewish News

T

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FRIDAY, OCTOBER 27, 1989

Call The Jewish News

here was a time when
the Jewish establish-
ment, in Israel as well
as overseas, opposed any
public agitation and
demonstrations demanding
the release of Russian Jews,
on the grounds that delicate
negotiations were in process,
and undue publicity would
only hinder these efforts.
Growing public pressure was
brought to bear, and combin-
ed with Soviet need for help
and understanding from the
West, the gates were gradual-
ly opened.
A similar situation exists
today with regard to the
rescue of the remaining Jews
of Ethiopia. Most readers will
recall the drama and excite-
ment of Operation Moses,
which brought to Israel some
8,000 members of the Beta
Israel community (formerly
called Falashas), until the
government in Sudan sudden-
ly slammed shut the exit
doors through that country.
About 3,000 Jews lost their
lives in the overland trek
from Ethiopia. It is estimated
that anywhere between
15,000 and 20,000 Jews still
remain in that country, most
of them parents or siblings of
those already here whom
they hoped to join.
The tragedy of these broken
families is intense, as most of
the Ethiopians here feel
almost a sense of personal
guilt, as if they were respon-
sible for abandoning their
families. Meanwhile, the
famine in Ethiopia continues
to take its toll. What can be
done?
Once again, the Jewish
establishment is not pro-
viding leadership. It has other
concerns, all of them un-
doubtedly important, like
political support for Israel
and management of the in-
creasing flow of Jews from the
Soviet Union. Hence, it is the
smaller groups in the. Jewish
community that are once
again pressing to rouse public
opinion — and this at a time
when, by all indications, the
Addis Ababa government is
in serious need of Western
support. The continuing
famine and the gradual
withdrawal of Soviet aid, on
which Ethiopia had relied so
much, is moving the Ethio-
pian leadership to look for
financial and political sup-
port elsewhere. Hanan Aynor,
Israel's last ambassador to
that country who was for 30

years engaged in Ethiopian
affairs in the Israel Foreign
Ministry, puts it succinctly:
"This is the historic moment
to mobilize Western public
opinion through a well-
organized and advertised
petition addressed to the
Ethiopian government —
directed to arouse widespread
interest in the plight of Etho-
pian Jewry."
With serious food shor-
tages, it would seem almost
as if Ethiopian self-interest

Rachel: Missing family.

would dictate its desire to rid
itself of at least these few
thousand additional mouths
to feed.
Fittingly, it is the World
Union of Jewish Students
(WUJS), headquartered in
Jerusalem, that is playing a
major role in pressing for a
public protest and campaign
now The great majority of the
Ethiopians here are young,
and their psychological and
social problems touch the
hearts of the students. Lear-
ning that some 2,000 Ethio-
pian Jews are in the big city
of Addis Ababa, and some
have access to telephones, the
WUJS arranged for several
dozen phone conversations
between family members.
The gist was always the same.
"Help us — rescue Lis — get us
out!" Sometimes there has
been indirect mail contact,
and the story is told of Ethio-
pian youth here who, getting
a letter from Africa, carry it
around for days, afraid to
open it, for fear of the news it
might contain.
There have been many pic-
tures showing the Ethiopian
youth here, and stories telling
of their gradual adjustment.
Has it ever struck you how
many of the pictures show
them as grim and unsmiling?
The guilt haunts them. The
suicide rate among them is
high. El

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