Icon buys 'gripping' true tale of Ethiopian Jews' rescue

Icon buys 'gripping' true tale of Ethiopian Jews' rescue

Icon Books will publish “the little-known story” of Mossad’s top secret operation to smuggle Ethiopian Jews to Israel from behind enemy lines, Red Sea Spies, by BBC journalist Raffi Berg.

Red Sea Spies, the debut from Middle East editor of the BBC News website Berg (pictured), explores the perilous operation to smuggle Ethiopian Jews to Israel from inside enemy territory in the early 1980s. Icon Books' publisher Duncan Heath bought world rights from the author for an undisclosed sum, with publication slated for spring 2020.

Based on first-hand accounts from senior Mossad figures, including the field commander and members of his team, Berg will tell the “extraordinary tale of how the legendary intelligence organisation ran a glamorous but fake diving resort on Sudan’s Red Sea coast as cover for spiriting thousands of black Jews out of the country by sea and air”.

Icon said: "With never-before-revealed detail and photographs, journalist Berg will take the reader through the dramatic series of events which saw an isolated community, said to descend from a Biblical lost tribe, uproot itself to pursue a dream of return to the Promised Land.  Berg will tell how a single, cryptic letter led Mossad and Israel’s elite armed forces to act in an often hazardous top-secret mission, unique in modern times."

Icon Books’ editor Ellen Conlon said the independent publisher aims to publish more titles focusing on unusual tales of espionage.

“We’re absolutely delighted to be publishing this gripping – and highly unusual – spy story," she said. "Icon has established a reputation for this kind of book with the recent Sunday Times bestseller Billion Dollar Spy by David E Hoffman, so we’re very keen to pursue more in this vein. Raffi Berg is the ideal author, with his pacey, journalistic style and in-depth knowledge of the subject.”

Berg, who has worked at the BBC since 2001, said: ‘It has been a remarkable experience to uncover the inside story of the deliverance of this mystical community by Israeli secret agents. I was privileged to be granted unique access to individuals who took part but choose to stay in the shadows, entrusting me to tell the true tale. Time after time these people put their lives on the line in the cause of saving others.”

The London-based journalist added: “Perhaps above all, it is told in tribute to the thousands of men, women and children who risked all to get back to the Promised Land, and I am thrilled to be bringing it to a wide audience.”