as the torah portions for this year progress from the exodus to the wilderness, i am reminded of an encounter in the early 1980s.
i was introduced and honored to meet an unknown hero at the time. he was an accountant or bookkeeper and he was in los angeles with his two younger brothers. he told of his unlikely occupation as a guide. on numerous occasions, he traversed the desert bringing ethiopian jews to where they would able to have transport out of africa to israel. his two brothers among the many he assisted.
the ethiopian exodus to israel had many parts. with the yemen operation magic carpet being the first in modern times, the beta israel’s could be labled exodus iii, iv & v with respect to mass migration.
modern exoduses are complicated. the almighty was not present with manna from heaven. rather, the reality was a real wilderness was with real danger. both in the journey and in refugee camps, they encountered they “suffered from disease, hunger and acts of harassment, rape, and violent robberies.” an estimated 4,000 lives were lost in making this journey. the emotional tool was akin to 40 years of wandering. the israeli government established a memorial day, the 28th of eyar.
in sum, the human spirit and collaboration of many individuals achieved tasks of biblical proportion. human beings proved capable of hearing the cries of their fellow humans as much as the almighty. while these moments were of great achievement, they were with a heavy price of approximately 4,000 lives. the memory of those who perished in the wilderness serves not only as reminder to the community and their nation as well as an important lessons for those who hear humanity’s cries.
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