Ex-Mossad agents claim state has abandoned them

Immigrant Absorption Ministry: More than 400 Prisoners of Zion receiving financial aid from ministry.

ethiopians israel 88 224 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
ethiopians israel 88 224
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Dozens of Ethiopian Jews who assisted Israel's Mossad during Operation Moses, which brought thousands of Ethiopians to Israel via Sudan in 1984-85, are claiming that they have received little official recognition for the often dangerous work they did and that the state has all but forgotten about them, The Jerusalem Post has learned. "I am very angry with the government," Tsegaye Dawit, who was 16 years old in 1983 when he was recruited by the Mossad to help with the secret mission, told the Post Monday. "Without my help, Operation Moses might not have happened, and now they refuse to give me anything." Dawit said that his role was to meet Jewish families at Khartoum's central bus station twice a day and escort them to a secret Israeli-run compound where they were fed, re-clothed and processed before the trip to Israel. "I was young and they [the Mossad] took advantage of me," said Dawit, who worked with the Israeli government for more than two years. "They did not pay me a salary, only some money to take the bus and buy food for those families that were arriving in Khartoum." Towards the end of his time helping the Mossad, Dawit said, he was arrested, thrown into jail and tortured by the Sudanese authorities, who were attempting to find out information about Israel's secret operation. After Operation Moses ended, Dawit chose to move to Canada instead of Israel in order to get an education. "I managed to find constant work there and stayed," said the now-41-year-old, who eventually made aliya in 2001 and despite arriving with a university degree in mathematics, currently works for minimum wage as a security guard in Netanya. Dawit said his plan was to become a math teacher but that he does not have sufficient funds to pay for the two-year teacher training course and while he has turned to various organizations for financial assistance, because he is over 40, no one is willing to sponsor him. "I have asked for help from the authorities but they tell me there is nothing they can do," he said dejectedly, adding: "Because I made aliya from Canada, I do not get the full benefits of an Ethiopian immigrant." Dawit is only one of several dozen former Mossad helpers from Operation Moses who feel abandoned by the government, claims Tel Aviv-based lawyer Ari Syrquin, who has been providing some of them with pro-bono legal services in an attempt to raise awareness to their plight and gain for them some financial compensation. "There was the Pressler Committee [headed by former army general Yigal Pressler], which was appointed by the government in 2000 to look into the matter," explained Syrquin. "The committee did recognize their work and even awarded some of them - including Dawit - NIS 30,000 compensation." "However, the committee was supposed to follow up on the issue. It was meant to determine what other assistance these people needed but nothing was done and the committee has now been disbanded," Pressler continued. A spokeswoman for the Immigrant Absorption Ministry responded that more than 400 Ethiopians considered Prisoners of Zion - i.e. those who spent time in Sudanese or Ethiopian jails - were receiving financial aid from the ministry via the National Insurance Institute.