Yogi’s Verdict: Mossad Exodus

Welcome to the beautiful Arous Village on the sun-kissed shore of Sudan’s Red Sea coast. Enjoy diving in pristine waters guided by the best professionals and enjoy the fresh and hearty seafood meals!

Except, Arous was no mere holiday resort. In reality, it was a front for Israel’s Mossad spy agency during the early 1980s. The resort was used as a cover to smuggle tens of thousands of Ethiopian Jews fleeing their war torn homeland via Sudan to the “promised land” of Israel.

As Muslim Sudan was an enemy state, Mossad had to get creative in devising methods of extracting the refugees. Author Gad Shimron, an agent who was assigned to the resort plan, describes in vivid detail the great lengths to which the Mossad team went to set up Arous in 1981.

Taking over a defunct complex built by Italian entrepreneurs, the Mossad team renovated it with top-of-the-line equipment, hired local staff and welcomed scores of unsuspecting tourists to the ultimate diving adventure. Meanwhile, they secretly worked to transport Ethiopian refugees to the beaches or airfields to be picked up by Israeli navy and air force craft.

An actual flyer printed to promote the fake Arous resort.

Most Mossad operations lose money, but we found ourselves making a small profit. We had to come up with all sorts of excuses to get away for our real work — parties in Khartoum, stocking up on provisions, that sort of thing

Gad Shimron

Among the excuses Shimron describes was heading to a distant Red Cross Hospital to supposedly spend the night with “beautiful Swedish female volunteers”. Arous itself was no stranger to the bizarre, even hosting Egyptian army officers and British special forces troops on leave. Along the way, the team bumps into various seedy Sudanese officials and a hodgepodge of colourful expat characters.

The remains of the Arous Holiday Village today.

Mossad Exodus expertly blends the amusing anecdotes of resort management with the dangerous rescue operations that necessitated all the subterfuge. One will sense the deep anxiety and fear of the refugees and the Mossad team in the pages. An account of one incident where Sudanese troops stumbled onto a pickup operation at the beach is narrated in gripping detail.

Shimron adds useful context that helps readers understand the history of Ethiopian Jews and the political circumstances surrounding their journey to Israel. We also see the ugly side of the story, when new Ethiopian arrivals faced (and continue to face) racism and discrimination in the very country they had seen as their ultimate salvation.

Yogi’s Verdict: ★★★★★

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