Sequels to the Passover story


As we approach the Passover holiday that commemorates the exodus of the Jews from enslavement and murder in ancient Egypt, a couple of new books provides a continuation of the narrative of the Jewish people's search for peace and security in an often hostile world. The Ransom of the Jews: The Story of the Extraordinary Secret Bargain Between Romania and Israel by Radu Ionaid discloses new details behind the "bargain" (an unfortunate word choice) in which Israel and sympathetic groups bribed Romanian dictator Nicole Ceausescu and others to permit Jews to escape depredations and anti—Semitism in Romania.

Ceausescu had boasted that "Jews, Germans and oil are our best export commodities"  (Germans stuck behind Romania after the end of World War Two were ransomed to the German government) . He placed various prices on Jews as determined by  their education and professional level. Spies and intermediaries were involved and strict secrecy was maintained to preserve Ceausescu's image as one of the more "liberal and open—minded" East European dictators. Nevertheless, many thousands of Jews were able to leave the imprisonment and reach freedom.
On another continent, Africa, tens of thousands of Jews from Ethiopia were also able to reach freedom in Israel via intricate negotiations and trade—offs between Israel, Ethiopia, Sudan, and America. This story is recounted in, Operation Solomon: The Daring Rescue of the Ethiopian Jews by Stephen Spector . This is a riveting book that comprehensively recounts the intricate planning that resulted in the miraculous airlift of these Jews (who legend has it were begat from the relationship between the queen of Sheba and Menelik, son of King Solomon).
One should not forget Senator Henry Jackson and Congressman Charles Vanick. The Jackson—Vanick amendment placed trade restrictions on countries of the Communist bloc (primarily the Soviet Union) which had restrictive emigration policies—especially with regard to the oppressed Jews of those nations. If these restrictions were not loosened, these countries would not be allowed to trade with America.

Henry Jackson was a soldier in World War Two who helped to liberate the concentration camps and he carried from that experience a lifelong desire to fight tyranny everywhere and to help protect the Jewish people. This amendment lead to a mass exodus of Russian Jews that has helped enrich the free world (most moved to Israel but many dispersed to other nations). These two Congressmen and those who supported the passage of the amendment were, with some poetic license, modern—day incarnations of Moses.*
The Passover story has not ended... will it ever?
* the drafters and supporters of the Helsinki Accords mandating the expansion of freedom in the Soviet bloc also are to be commended

Ed Lasky  4 23 05