Israel at 70 - AJC eBook - Page 10

I stood in the courtyard of the Israeli embassy in Moscow and saw thousands of Jews seeking a quick exit from a Soviet Union in the throes of cataclysmic change, fearful that the change might be in the direction of renewed chauvinism and anti-Semitism. Awestruck, I watched up-close as Israel never faltered, not even for a moment, in transporting Soviet Jews to the Jewish homeland, even as Scud missiles launched from Iraq traumatized the nation in 1991. It says a lot about the conditions they were leaving behind that these Jews continued to board planes for Tel Aviv while missiles were exploding in Israeli population centers. In fact, on two occasions I sat in sealed rooms with Soviet Jewish families who had just arrived in Israel during these missile attacks. Not once did any of them question their decision to establish new lives in the Jewish state. And equally, it says a lot about Israel that, amid all the pressing security concerns, it managed to continue welcoming these new immigrants without missing a beat. I traveled to the Gondar region of Ethiopia in the 1980s and met Jews who had waited centuries, perhaps millennia, to return to Zion, never losing their faith or hope. And return they did in extraordinary operations organized by Israel. As one African-American leader said then: “This was the first time that Africans were taken from the continent not in chains for slavery, but on planes for freedom.” And how can I ever forget the surge of pride — Jewish pride — that completely enveloped me 40 years ago, in July 1976, on hearing the astonishing news of Israel’s daring rescue of the 106 Jewish hostages held by Arab and German terrorists in Entebbe, Uganda, over 2,000 miles from Israel’s borders? The unmistakable message: Jews in danger will never again be alone, without hope, and totally dependent on others for their safety. 4