AP NEWS
Related topics

EDITOR’S NOTE - The following dispatch was sent to the Isra

January 8, 1985

EDITOR’S NOTE - The following dispatch was sent to the Israeli military censor, who made one deletion.

TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) _ Rachel Reta, a teen-ager who arrived in Israel on a secret late-night airlift, prays every day that her parents, brothers and sisters will somehow escape from famine-stricken Ethiopia to join her.

Moshe Abraham is an exuberant 17-year-old, but he speaks quietly when he talks about his family, including a sister he hasn’t seen in seven years when she was sent from Ethiopia to a refugee camp where her parents believed she would get better care.

″If only they could be here,″ he said Monday.

Moshe and 16-year-old Rachel are among the hundreds of Ethiopian Jewish youngsters who have arrived in Israel on their own, and who face special problems adjusting to new lives without the support of a family.

The Jewish Agency, an independent organization that aided the government airlifts known as Operation Moses, said about 10 percent of the Ethiopian children who were brought to Israel left parents behind.

Officials fear the parents may not be able to join their children because the rescue mission apparently was brought to a halt over the weekend after news of it was made public.

″The children feel very guilty. One day I saw a 17-year-old boy sit on the ground and start crying,″ said Abraham Weingood, director of the orphanage here where Moshe, Rachel and about 40 other Ethiopian Jewish children now live.

″When I asked him what the matter was, he said he was crying for his parents,″ Weingood said.

″Some of them will be reunited with their families some day, and some of them won’t,″ he said. ″I take them to pray about it. And I pray myself. Beyond that, what can I do?″

Ganet Balai, 7, clung to the hand of an Israeli director of an absorption center in Kiryat Arba, a Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank about 45 miles southeast of Tel Aviv.

″Her mother is still on the way,″ said the director, Elchanan Yanai. ″These people are in terrible shock now″ over all the publicity about the rescue operation ″and they are worried about whether they will get to see their relatives.″

Israel’s story of helping Ethiopian children integrate in a new society is largely one of success.

In the six months since the children came to Weingood’s orphanage, they have learned to use the bathroom, eat new foods and speak Hebrew.

″At first they would only eat bread. And then I ate bread with cheese, and they followed my example. Slowly, slowly, they learned to eat very strange things, like apples and cucumbers,″ Weingood said.

Now the children are learning to use computers. Weingood believes they must be better educated than the average Israeli to avoid the stigma of being black in a largely white society.

In the seaside town of Nahariya on the border with Lebanon, some 200 Ethiopian youngsters who were separated from the parents enroute to Israel have settled in bungalows once used as a home for mentally retarded children.

Teachers said the children, ranging in age from 8 to 18, were being instructed in Hebrew, the Bible, the history of Israel and Judaism and practical courses in homemaking and carpentry. They estimated it would take six months for the new arrivals to adjust.

About a dozen teen-age boys wearing black skullcaps played soccer in a park on the edge of the town. Once a week they have courses in ballet and music, officials said. On the doorstep of one hut, two Israeli female soldiers showed a 15-year-old Ethiopian how to use fingernail polish.

The young Ethiopians say they are grateful for what they have learned. But almost every conversation returns to the subject of their families back in Ethiopia.

″The most exciting thing for me was to go to Jerusalem. That is the link between Israel and Ethiopia,″ said Rachel. ″There I made a prayer that all my family will be able to join me soon. And I try to keep my hopes up. But I am afraid.″

Operation Moses started about two months ago. When the operation was apparently halted over the weekend, there were 8,000-10,000 Jews remaining in Ethiopian and another 4,000 in transit camps in Sudan, according to estimates by the Jewish Agency, which deals with immigration. There are an estimated 13,000 already in Israel, more than half of whom reportedly came on the operation’s 35 flights.