An unusual family reunion took place Tuesday evening at Ben-Gurion International Airport, when Suzi Makoriel and her three children—the last Jews remaining in South Sudan—landed as new immigrants.
Suzy and her children were reunited with her mother, bringing to an end a 10-year saga that spanned four countries, and was directed by Binyamin-area resident Aharon Tsuf.
A year and a half ago Tsuf met with Suzy’s mother, who told him two of her daughters were in South Sudan, unable to leave the country. Thirty years ago, while she was making her way to Israel from Ethiopia, the mother was kidnapped and taken to South Sudan. She and her other children returned to Ethiopia, but two of her daughters were forced to marry Sudanese men.
“I was touched by the story. I realized that if I didn’t help this family, no one would,” Tsuf said.
And help he did. He set in motion the process of bringing Suzy and her children to Israel, enlisting Suzy’s brother to help find her and her sister, which took until December 2018. They then traveled to Ethiopia for a family reunion.
“It was the first time they had seen their mother in 10 years,” Tsuf said.
From there, he brought the mother and one of her daughters to Israel, while Suzy went back to South Sudan to fetch her children.
“The sister and her children made aliyah in April and lived at my house until their mother joined them. Suzy and her children stayed behind,” Tsuf explained.
He continued with his efforts to bring Suzy and her children to Israel.
“At the end of June, I fulfilled all the demands of the South Sudanese Interior Ministry, and with the help of the ambassadors, I brought [Suzy and her children] to Ethiopia. They waited there for about 40 days, partly because Suzy had come down with malaria,” said Tsuf.
Assisted by donations from friends, pro-Israel Christians in Africa, Binyamin Regional Council head Yisrael Gantz and Israeli Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, Tsuf had the family recognized as part of the Jewish people. He then organized travel to Israel for Suzy and her children.
“It was hard to get here. In the end, she took an eight-day bus ride from South Sudan to Ethiopia via Uganda and Kenya. Halfway there, she got lost and went back. The project encountered a lot of difficulties. We’re talking about countries that have no identity cards or good communications,” said Tsuf.
In total, it cost NIS 120,000 ($34,000) to bring Suzy and her children to Israel. Tsuf paid a third of the cost.
“After an exhausting year and a half, this unbelievable moment has arrived. I’m tearing up,” he said.
For the next few months, the new arrivals will live in an immigrant absorption center.
This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.