Ferede Aklum

(1949-2009)

Born 1949 in Adi Woreva, Tigray district, Ethiopia. His father, Yazazao Aklum was a wealthy, educated successful man who valued all his children’s education.

Ferede studied pedagogy in the Addis Ababa teachers’ college, then worked as a teacher and in 1976 was appointed schoolmaster in Indabeguna in Tigray. He asked the ORT network to open a Jewish school in Tigray, and indeed two ORT schools were opened for the Tigray Jewish communities. A year later he moved to Gondar, to teach in the Jewish school. During the 1970s he initiated the establishments of two more schools in Tigray, and also became the council chairman of Indabeguna.

 

פרדה בתצלום משפחתי, צילום: עמרם אקלום

In 1977, an agreement on the transferring of Jews via Addis Ababa to Israel in return for weapons was signed between Ethiopia and Israel. Aklum was responsible for bringing some 200 Jews that year. After a few of them arrived in Israel, the deal was leaked and uncovered, and as a result, Ethiopia cut all diplomatic relations with Israel, and deported all Israeli representatives, including the ORT agents. Aklum realized he was not safe there, fled to Khartoum, and sent an urgent letter to the Israeli representative in Geneve, which reached the Mossad in Tel Aviv. The Mossad people were looking for new ways to bring the Jews of Ethiopia in the midst of the Ethiopian civil war. Aklum’s letter, in which he wrote how he crossed the border to Sudan, made them examine the possibility of a rescuing operation to Israel via Sudan, disguising the Jews as war refugees.  The Mossad agents met with Aklum and it was decided that he would locate and gather more Jews in Sudan. Eventually, he was recruited as a Mossad agent himself. He managed to bring his two brothers to join him in search of more and more Jewish families who arrived in Sudan, and sent a group of 30 people to Genève with the help of ORT and Mossad men, and from Genève to Ofakim, Israel.

After this successful attempt, the Mossad kept using Aklum for locating and gathering Jews in Khartoum and in refugee camps along the Sudan-Ethiopia border. He realized the best way to transport the Jews via Sudan was disguises as refugees. The word spread in many Jewish villages, and the Jews of Tigray started to flow towards the Sudanese border, pretending to be war refugees. Thousands of Jews came to Israel in this method, through the red sea. However, after two years, Aklum’s name and actions were informed to the Sudanese authorities and they started pursuing him. He realized his life was in danger and left to Israel. During those two years, the Mossad prepared the logistic and intelligential basis to the Moses operation by airplanes, in 1984.

In Israel, Aklum settled with his family in Beer Sheva, and continued his efforts as an Aliyah activist, who assisted many Olim to adjust to their new country. At that period, he heard that many Jews were killed while crossing the Sudanese border, and established some contacts with countries bordering with Sudan and Ethiopia, in order to bring more Jews to Israel, however was given a cold shoulder and even driven out of Kenya by the local police.

Ferede Aklum died on January 7, 2009, while staying in Addis Ababa, and buried in the new cemetery in Beer Sheva on January 11.

In January 2016 a memorial cornerstone was laid in his memory for a park and square in Beer Sheva.