Operation Joshua

Operation Moses ended on January 5, 1985, which resulted in thousands of Ethiopian Jews getting out of Sudan to reach Israel. Thousands of Jews had been smuggled out of Ethiopia to escape a genocidal dictator who was bent on the death of every Jew who lived in the country he brutalized with Soviet backed weapons and ammunition. Mengistu Haile Mariam took power with Soviet backing and, no matter how many were slaughtered, the Soviet’s never stopped backing him.

It was believed as many as 2000 Jews remained in Sudanese refugee camps, who were kept hidden from the Sudanese government. Had Ethiopian Jews been discovered, they would have either been executed by the Sudanese military or returned to Ethiopia where they would have been executed. Discovery would not have meant a quick death for most Jews regardless of which nationality murdered them in the end.

Operation Joshua occurred soon after. According to Wikipedia, Operation Joshua was the result of, “Ethiopian Jews had fled to refugee camps in Sudan from a severe famine in their country.” There is no mention of Mengitsu’s order to kill every Jew in Ethiopia, which occurred well before the famine hit. It also does not mention the famine was used to starve rebels in the north, which was where the famine occurred. Wikipedia is a source that is known for misinformation and should not be used by anyone interested in truth and facts.

Israel started the planning phase of rescuing Ethiopian Jews from Sudanese refugee camps in 1977, almost a decade before the famine. Then President Carter did nothing, along with the rest of the world, except for Israel. Another attempted extinction event against Jews had started and the President of the United States did nothing. There are only two reasons the world, including the United States President, did nothing. It took place in Africa and was happening to the Jews.

George Washington University has declassified documents from then President Carter’s Administration’s handling of Mengitsu when dealing directly with the Soviet Union. The timeframe runs from 1977 to 1980.


Throughout four years of documents, no mention is made about Ethiopian Jews being targeted for extinction. It gives brief mentions about brutality, but then President Carter was more concerned about an international conflict breaking out than he was about the Ethiopians suffering under a brutal dictator who would go on to be responsible for the deaths of over 2,000,000 Ethiopians.

When the Reagan Administration took over, there was a change from Admiral Turner, who had been former President Carter’s Director of the CIA to Casey, who took over on January 28, 1981.This was one week after President Reagan was sworn into office. Prior to this moment, Mossad received no assistance from the CIA when it came to evacuating Ethiopian Jews from Somalia. The CIA already had the information about what was happening to the Jews, but were prohibited to act under the Carter Administration.

The Jewish Virtual Library is filled with factual data. Here one can find a comprehensive breakdown on Operation Joshua, where enough resources were planned to save all 2000 Jews believed to have been left behind. The following information can be found in any number of historical sites known for accuracy. For this blog, the Jewish Virtual Library about America’s role in the rescue of Ethiopian Jews will be used to sum up the events.

Once news broke that Operation Moses was coming to an end on January 5, 1985, which was the start of the second and last term of the Reagan Administration, there was a very different reaction to his predecessor. Term limits meant President Reagan did not have to worry about reelection. What President Reagan did was something the Carter Administration could have done, but chose to ignore the suffering of Ethiopian Jews.

From the start, Americans and Israelis started to search for a way to resume flights. A letter was signed by every member of the United States Senate to encourage President Reagan to act. No letter was sent to President Carter to do anything, since President Carter had proven he did not care about what happened to the Ethiopian Jews. No letter would have influenced his position.

President Reagan received the letter on February 21, 1985 and could have sent a letter in response or ignored it altogether, but chose to call Senator Cranston directly, who had sent the letter to him. The words he used were short and to the point. “We’ll take care of what’s going on.”

President Reagan had already made plans before he received the letter. The trip Vice President Bush was sent on to raise the issue directly with Sudan had already been scheduled for March 3, 1985. Had President Reagan waited for the letter, the meeting would have taken longer to set up.

An agreement was reached, but not with continuous flights. It had to be a single airlift by Americans alone. Israel could have no role in what would become Operation Joshua. Not only could Israel have no direct involvement, the planes used could not fly directly to Israel.

On March 28, 1985, the CIA worked with Ethiopian Jews who worked for Mossad. Had it been discovered; Sudan would have stopped the Operation. It was a necessary risk, since they were needed to identify Ethiopian Jews hiding in refugee camps.

American planes built to hold 90 passengers took off from Frankfurt, Germany shortly before planes from Israel filled with food, water and medical supplies flew in secret towards Sudan. Both had prepared for the 2000 remaining Ethiopian Jews.

Only 494 of the 2000 could be found and saved.


President Reagan had no political reason to take the actions he took to save those lives. There was no third term for him due to term limits. He acted to save lives because it was the right thing to do. If President Carter had taken similar action, countless lives of Ethiopians, Jewish and Gentile alike, could have been saved.

About the Author
Bob Ryan is a science-fiction author and believes the key to understanding the future is to understand the past. As any writer can attest, he spends a great deal of time researching numerous subjects. He is someone who seeks to strip away emotion in search of reason, since emotion clouds judgement. Bob is an American with an MBA in Business Administration. He is a gentile who supports Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state.
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