Operation Moses was “a three-way collaboration between the Mossad, the CIA and Sudanese State Security (SSS) to smuggle nearly 8,000 Falash Mura [Ethiopian Jews] out of refugee camps in Sudan in a massive airlift to Israel.” (Jerusalem Post) The operation lasted several months, beginning on November 21, 1984.
A few years ago, I heard an Israeli pilot who participated in the rescue describe the terrified Ethiopian Jews, whose experience was in back-country villages, as they saw a plane for the first time. “We had to fly under the radar,” he explained. “We didn’t really have the complete permission of the Sudanese government.” The Israeli soldiers coaxed or forced them to enter the planes – which kept their engines running in order to fly out again as quickly as possible. Our friend showed us a video of the fire-spitting engines, the open cargo doors, and the terrified refugees holding hands as they were led into the plane.
I'm aware that not all of my fellow secular Jews think that it's worth while to rescue the Ethiopian Jews from starvation and persecution, but my friend the pilot is a hero to me.