This amazing story - improbably featured on the BBC website - demonstrates how far Israel has been prepared to go to fulfil its humanitarian missions to rescue Jews in distress. The article reveals how the Israeli secret service, the Mossad, established a Red Sea diving resort in the Sudan as a base for its operatives. The resort, which attracted bona fide tourists, and even made money, was a front for the smuggling of thousands of Ethiopian Jews through Sudan and on to Israel. A film based on the book by Mossad agent Gad Shimroni is soon to be released. (With thanks: Lily; Janet)
Mossad agent Gad Shimroni at the Red Sea 'resort' of Arous in the Sudan
"For us it was a godsend (says one Mossad agent). If we could get hold of this place and do it
up, we could say we're running a diving village, which would give us a
reason for being in Sudan and furthermore for roaming around near the
What happened next is the subject of a soon-to be released
Hollywood film called Red Sea Diving Resort. Filmed in Namibia and
South Africa, it tells the story of the operation and the village.
Though while it is based on true events, some of the scenes are
Completed in 1972 by Italian entrepreneurs, the resort
was a cluster of 15 red-roofed bungalows, a kitchen and a large dining
room opening out to the beach, a lagoon and the sea.
no electricity, water supply or even a road, the Italians found the
project impossible and the resort never opened.
"It's a very difficult place to run, if you don't have the Mossad behind you," says the unidentified agent.
false passports, a group of agents posing as employees of a Swiss
operating company went to Sudan, convinced the authorities of their
business proposition, and rented the village for three years for
They spent the first year renovating it and struck a deal with local suppliers for fresh water and fuel.
resort was also kitted out with Israeli-made equipment, including
air-conditioning units, outboard motors, and top-of-the-range water
sports gear, all smuggled into the country.
windsurfing to Sudan," says Gad, smiling. "The first board was brought
in - I knew how to windsurf, so I taught the guests. Other Mossad agents
posed as professional diving instructors."
They also recruited
about 15 local staff, including chambermaids, waiters, a driver and a
chef "poached" from a hotel. "We paid him double," says the unnamed
operative. None of the staff knew the resort's real purpose, or that
their Caucasian managers were Mossad spies.
Female agents were put in charge of the day-to day running of the place, which it was thought would lower any suspicions.
diving storeroom was out-of-bounds. In it were concealed radios the
agents used to keep in regular contact with headquarters back in Tel
While seeing to their guests by day, every so often at night
a squad would leave under cover of darkness and head to a rendezvous
point 10km (six miles) south of Gedaref.
"We'd tell the staff
we're going to Khartoum for a few days, or to meet some Swedish nurses
from the hospital in Kassala," says Gad.
They would pick up groups
of Ethiopian Jews, smuggled out of the camps by so-called Committee Men
- a handful of Beta Israelis recruited for the job.
Ethiopian Jews were given no notice, as we could not risk word getting
out," says Gad. "They did not even know we were Israelis. We told them
we were mercenaries."
Thousands of Ethiopian Jews were airlifted to Israel after it became too risky to transport them by ship.
From there, a convoy of lorries carrying dozens of
bewildered refugees drove a two-day - 800km - journey, evading detection
at numerous checkpoints along the way by a combination of guile,
bribery and occasionally ramming their way through.
At breaks, they would try to pacify the frightened passengers.
we let them sit in the driver's cabin and touch the wheel, they were in
seventh heaven," Gad says, in his book Mossad Exodus. "It was amazing
to see how happy they were at sharing a piece of chewing gum among 20
children. They looked at us as though we were creatures from outer
When they got to the beach, north of the holiday village,
Israeli navy special forces would come ashore on Zodiac dinghies,
collect the refugees and transport them a further hour and a half to a
waiting naval vessel, the INS Bat Galim.
The ship then took them to Israel.
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