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Before the airlifts, Ethiopian Jews did the heavy lifting to get out of Africa

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Thirty years ago, in 1991, Israel pulled off a remarkable rescue mission. Operation Solomon brought around 15,000 members of the ancient Ethiopian Jewish community to Israel in under 24 hours in the middle of a civil war.

While the rescue was credited to the Israel Defense Forces and the Mossad spy agency, it also depended upon behind-the-scenes work from activists, including many Ethiopian Jews. Some found buses to bring coreligionists from their home province of Gondar to the capital of Addis Ababa. Others worked with Israeli diplomatic staff stationed in Ethiopia. Still others pressured then-prime minister Yitzhak Shamir until he finally greenlit the airlift.

Grassroots activism by and on behalf of Ethiopian Jewry stretches back to the 1970s and extends to today. Members of the 2,000-year-old Beta Israel community remain in Ethiopia despite Operation Solomon and its similarly dramatic 1984 predecessor, Operation Moses. A separate community, the Falash Mura — Jews forcibly converted to Christianity who wish to return to their ancestral faith — has also been frustrated in its pursuit of immigration to Israel.

The ongoing saga of the Ethiopian Jewish community is chronicled in a new documentary film, “With No Land,” directed by filmmakers and spouses Aalam-Warqe Davidian and Kobi Davidian.

Aalam-Warqe Davidian brings her personal background as an Ethiopian Jewish immigrant to Israel who arrived during Operation Solomon, while Kobi Davidian, a native of Jerusalem, long worked to understand the nuances of the overall story.

The film premiered on Israel’s Kan broadcaster on May 11, the 30th anniversary of Operation Solomon, and recently played at the Other Israel Film Festival. It will continue its festival run with showings at the upcoming New York, Miami, and Cincinnati Jewish film festivals.

“I would like to really create awareness and conversation,” Aalam-Warqe Davidian told The Times of Israel in a joint Zoom interview with her husband.

Kobi Davidian increased his own awareness through an archive he directed and produced, Memories of Ethiopia. The collection of 100 testimonies from Ethiopian Jews challenged his previous beliefs about how the community got to Israel.

“I was astonished to hear a lot of stories about their work and their struggle to come to Israel,” Davidian said. “I was completely shocked… What I learned [growing up] is that they didn’t do anything, we just came and took them.”

The documentary presents a much........

© The Times of Israel

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