(Photo: Beit Hatfusot/via JTA)

(Photo: Beit Hatfusot/via JTA)

By Moira Schneider - March 16, 2019

CAPE TOWN (JTA) — In 1983, when Danny Abebe was 9 years old, his Jewish family decided one Rosh Hashanah night to leave their remote village in Ethiopia — with some 700 others — due to war and a series of famines that had wracked the country.

“We didn’t know where [we were going], nobody told us,” he recalled. “We walked barefoot to Sudan – we walked 800 kilometers [500 miles], over three weeks, walking 45-55 kilometers a day,” or between 28 and 35 miles.

Abebe didn’t know it then, but he was part of the historic Operation Moses, the secret airlift by the Israeli government of some 7,000 Ethiopian Jews to Israel over seven weeks between 1984 and 1985. At the opening of “Operation Moses: 30 Years After,” an exhibition at the South African Jewish Museum that showcases the stories of 10 such individuals — he spoke of the heartbreak faced along the way.

Gavin Morris, director of the South African Jewish Museum, said an important element of the exhibition is that it acknowledges the Jewish presence in Africa over two millennia.

“There’s a tendency to think of Jews in this day and age as white, middle- or upper-class people, where the reality historically has always been very different,” Morris told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

“We bring a lot of African schoolchildren through the museum – I’d like them to see that Jews are not homogenously white, Ashkenazi, middle-class people, but that we are a very diverse culture and community and the lived experience of the Ethiopian Jews is much closer to their known experience and is maybe something that would resonate a bit more closely,” said Morris.

Read More: Times of Israel