Immigrants serve in unit that saved them

Years later in 1991, members of the same unit participated in Operation Solomon when the bulk of Ethiopia's Jewish community was airlifted to Israel in one spectacular weekend. On one of the planes was Eden Itia, an 11-year-old girl and now also 20.

"We knew we'd immigrate to Israel one day. We spoke about it at home. What we didn't know that was that we'd do it at such short notice," Itia said.

Several months ago, both young women were assigned to the same unit. Itia was trained as a safety equipment specialist and Yalu is serving in the rescue and evacuation school there.

Their story is told in full in the Air Force Magazine.

Itia was born in Addis Ababa. One a Friday morning in May 1991, she said, her mother sent her brother to the grocery. On the way he saw many people rushing to the Israeli Embassy and someone told her to go fetch her family because they were all going to Israel.

Yalu was born in Gondar. One of eight children, her family lived among non-Jews.

"They were very hostile and one night my parents took us and said: 'We're going,'" she said. "We left with the clothes on our backs and a little food for the month-long trek to Sudan. We had a guide whose job was to get us past the border but in the middle of the journey he fled with our money. There were nights when we slept in the mud. Sometimes we stayed in houses but never told our hosts we were Jews."

Once in Sudan, she and a brother and a sister were put with a group of other Jews. Her parents were brought out two weeks later and all eventually airlifted out of Sudan in Operation Moses.