Naim, Asher 1929-
NAIM, Asher 1929-
Born December 28, 1929, in Tripoli, Libya; immigrated to Israel, 1944; son of Baruch and Emilia (Vature) Naim; married Hilda Glick, August 23, 1956; children: Ronit, Ari, Gideon. Education: Hebrew University, Master of Jurisprudence, 1956.
Diplomat. Government of Israel, cultural and press attaché, Tokyo, Japan, 1956-60, embassy staff, Kenya and Uganda, 1961-64, chief operating officer of the assistance program for developing nations, Jerusalem, 1964-68, attaché, Israeli embassy, Washington, DC, 1968-73, consul-general, 1976-88, ambassador to Finland, 1988-90, Ethiopia, 1990-91, the United Nations, 1991, and South Korea, 1992-95. Cofounder of Keren Hanan Aynor Foundation, a scholarship fund for Ethiopian Jews.
Israel-Korea Friendship Association (chair).
Distinguished Israel Civil Servant, 1991; Hanyan University (Seoul, Korea), honorary doctorate.
(With Dr. Shang Hee Rhee) I.Q. 100 and Smart, I.Q. 150 Unexplored, Chuson Ilbo Publishing (Seoul, Korea), 1996.
(With Dr. Shang Hee Rhee) Natural Growth Skill for the Gifted, Yollu-Sah Publishing (Seoul, Korea), 1998.
(With Dr. Won-Sol Lee) Jerusalem in Human Destiny, Korean Christian Press (Seoul, Korea), 1998.
The Jewish People's Inner Strength for Survival, Sanyo Shuppan Publishing (Tokyo, Japan), 1999.
Let the Child Develop His Utmost, Mytos Publishing (Tokyo, Japan), 2000.
Contributor of articles on Jewish history, Korea-Israel relations, and child education to publications.
Israeli career diplomat Asher Naim was born in Libya and moved with his family to Israel after his bar mitzvah. He served his country in many positions, among them as ambassador to Ethiopia, beginning in 1990. Naim arrived in Addis Ababa amidst a brutal civil war and quickly recognized that the Falashas, or black Jews of Ethiopia, were in peril. In his memoir, Saving the Lost Tribe: The Rescue and Redemption of the Ethiopian Jews, Naim documents how he arranged and executed the airlift that was named "Operation Solomon" and that would save more than 14,000 people. This is the first book on the subject written in English, although several others have been published in Hebrew.
The Falashas, who refer to themselves as Beta Israel, can trace their beginnings back 3,000 years to King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. Their existence was unknown until Christian missionaries encountered their society in the nineteenth century. Naim, who had previously secured the release of Soviet Jews through Finland, negotiated with Ethiopian dictator Mengistu Haile Meriam (referred to by some historians as "the Butcher of Addis"), coordinated logistics with the Israeli military, and set about raising thirty-five million dollars, much of it from donors in America. It took nine months to bring the plan together, and when the time was right, Naim called for the Israeli planes that landed at the Addis airport and collected the Falashas under protection of armed Israeli commandos. They were all transported over a period of twenty-five hours, taking with them nothing but the clothes on their backs and a few religious items.
Other players in the operation included Uri Lubrani, an official in the Ministry of Defense who also took part in the negotiations on behalf of the Israeli government. Jewish Week Online contributor Sandee Brawarsky wrote that "some of the events seem like they're right out of the script of a thriller, although at one point after an extraordinary request, Lubrani reminds Kasa Kabede, Mengistu's close advisor, 'This isn't a James Bond film, Kasa.'"
As the Falashas attempted to integrate into Israeli society, they were met with hostility by the conservative wing and were feared as being carriers of AIDS and tuberculosis, causing many, particular the elders, to express the wish to return to Ethiopia. Naim argued before the United Nations that Operation Solomon should "erase the hideous UN resolution equating Zionism with racism."
A Kirkus Reviews contributor noted that in spite of all the problems, Naim "still views Operation Solomon as a success. Effectively argued, though the reader may pause to wonder how the Falashas are doing today." The immigrants had difficulty with such everyday activities as modern farming, because centuries had passed them by.
Naim is a cofounder of the Keren Hanan Aynor Foundation, which raises funds to help with the education of Ethiopian Jews. It benefits not only those who came through Operation Solomon, but also families from Operation Moses, an earlier migration that took place in 1984, and those who traveled on their own from Ethiopia to Israel.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Naim, Asher, Saving the Lost Tribe: The Rescue and Redemption of the Ethiopian Jews (memoir), Ballantine Books (New York, NY), 2003.
Booklist, December 15, 2002, Jay Freeman, review of Saving the Lost Tribe: The Rescue and Redemption of the Ethiopian Jews, p. 712.
Kirkus Reviews, December 1, 2002, review of Saving the Lost Tribe, p. 1754.
Publishers Weekly, December 23, 2002, review of Saving the Lost Tribe, p. 59.
Jewish Week Online,http://www.thejewishweek.com/ (March 21, 2003), Sandee Brawarsky, review of Saving the Lost Tribe.
Keren Hanan Aynor Foundation Online,http://www.kerenaynor.co.il (November 18, 2003).