In the early 1980s, the Mossad spy agency ran a diving resort in Sudan for the sole purpose of spiriting Ethiopian Jews to safety in Israel. Sounds like a script from a movie? Now it is.
By Abigail Klein Leichman, ISRAEL21c
Two decades ago, Israeli secret agents opened a fake diving resort on the Sudanese shores of the Red Sea, with the sole purpose of clandestinely rescuing Ethiopian Jews from Sudan and bringing them to safety in Israel.
Over several years the resort was in operation, about 6,000 Jewish refugees who had fled persecution, war and famine in Ethiopia were spirited by boat and plane to a new life in Israel.
Later this year, a feature film titled “The Red Sea Diving Resort” will bring this fabulous act of derring-do to the silver screen. The dramatized story was written and directed by Emmy Award-winning Israeli director Gideon Raff, the man behind TV hits such as “Homeland” and “Tyrant.”
“The Red Sea Diving Resort” stars Chris Evans, Haley Bennett, Michael K. William, Michiel Huisman, Alessandro Nivola, Greg Kinnear and Ben Kingsley.
he real-life mission began around 1978 and was codenamed “Operation Brothers.” Undercover Mossad agents posing as a European tourist company rented an abandoned resort village in Sudan, an enemy country to Israel.
Even though it was a front for the rescue it did accept actual tourists through a shell company in Switzerland so that the Sudanese authorities wouldn’t get suspicious. Among those guests were Saudi Arabian hawk-hunters, diplomats stationed in Khartoum, and British commandos.
To lend an air of authenticity, the agents brought in Israeli diving experts including Yola Reitman, an El Al flight attendant and deep-sea diver who spoke fluent German.
“It’s one of those stories that are hard to believe,” Gad Shimron, one of the Mossad agents who operated the resort, told TheWrap. “It was the only time when Europeans had extracted Africans from the continent, not to be enslaved but to be freed.”
Shimron wrote about his experience in a 2007 book, Mossad Exodus.
In 1984, not long after Operation Brothers ended, the Israeli government began the months-long Operation Moses, another secretive mission to evacuate some 8,000 Ethiopian Jews stuck in Sudan. Another mission, Operation Solomon, rescued more than 14,000 more Ethiopian Jews in May 1991.
Both of these operations are much better known than Operation Brothers – at least for now.