WHEN in 1982 Yola Reitman’s scuba diving partner said he wanted her to meet someone, she didn’t know she was about to play a role in a key moment in Israeli history.
The former El Al flight attendant, who will headline a panel at UIA’s women division’s upcoming gala events, was recruited by Mossad as an undercover agent to take part in Operation Brothers, the daring rescue of Ethiopian Jews via Sudan.
Posing as an employee at a seaside resort, she helped to smuggle thousands of Jews to freedom in Israel in events depicted in the film The Red Sea Diving Resort.
“The moment I heard the words ‘come work with me in the Mossad’ it was a very exciting moment,” Reitman told The AJN.
“He said it is going to be undercover in an enemy country.
“I grew up with many dreams in my heart and one of them of course, like any everybody else, was to see adventures and also spy adventures.”
She said the operation was “like being on stage and taking a part”.
“Instead of for two, three hours, you did it day after day, week after week,” she said.“Sometimes it was such a reality, play acting, that you forgot who you really were and you think you are the person whom you are representing.”
Reitman conceded there were “many moments” where things might have turned out differently, with the agents at risk of being discovered or caught. She said sometimes she felt apprehensive and needed to be more cautious.
“But there’s also this inner amusement knowing that you are fooling all the people around you … especially being an Israeli in a Arab enemy country,” she said.
The significance of what was achieved only dawned on her afterwards.
“At that time it was completely natural to do what you have to do because of a sense of duty,” she said.
“It’s only after a time that you really get the scope of what it was, because it was really a great moment in the history of Israel when I think back about the impact it made.
“To feel I did something important in my life and take part in history, for me it was really very significant.”
Commenting on the importance of organisations like UIA, Reitman said their support is about more than money.
“What is more important is that Jewish communities around the world do their part and take an interest in what’s happening in Israel.
“The fact that Jewish communities feel a connection to Israel and are trying to keep it going, keep it strong, I think is very important.”
The women’s division 2020 campaign will focus its support on “Family Matters”, a violence prevention program for Ethiopian immigrants.
UIA women’s division’s Sydney gala event is on Sunday, March 15. The Melbourne event is on Wednesday, March 18. For more information, visit uiaaustralia.org.au/our-events/nsw and uiaaustralia.org.au/our-events/vic.