'The Red Sea Diving Resort' will bring hope to those persecuted for faith, says director

The Red Sea Diving Resort
Chris Evans and Haley Bennett in “The Red Sea Diving Resort.” |

Netflix's “The Red Sea Diving Resort,” which tells the true story of international agents who saved Jewish Ethiopians from genocide in Sudan and smuggled them to Israel, will give hope to those around the world persecuted for their faith, said Director Gideon Raff. 

“I hope people watch this film and realize they have the power to change the world and gives those persecuted hope,” Raff (“Homeland,” “Prisoners of War”) told The Christian Post. “Just be kinder to one another. The world can a better place for those persecuted for their faith, and it’s up to us to make that happen.”

Inspired by real-life events, “The Red Sea Diving Resort” brings to life “Operation Brothers,” a mission that occurred between 1981 and 1985. Undercover operatives with the Israeli intelligence agency, Mossad, purchased a waterfront resort called Arous holiday village on Sudan’s Red Sea coastline and used it as a front to smuggle a lost tribe of Ethiopian Jews to Israel, right under the noses of Sudanese authorities.

“These Jews were being persecuted for their faith; they weren’t able to practice their religion and that’s a big reason they wanted to come to Israel,” Raff explained. “I was so inspired after meeting some of these people and moved by their stories. I wanted to honor them and realized just how relevant their story is even today.”

The massive humanitarian mission took place during Ethiopia’s worst-ever famine, which killed an estimated 400,000 people between 1983 and 1985, according to Human Rights Watch

While Arous ended up closing around the mid-’80s, the resort served as a successful tourist destination for several years, all while posing as an elaborate front to transport hundreds of Ethiopian Jews to safety.

At night, Mossad agents who had been manning the front desk of Arous during the day would travel inland to rescue Ethiopian Jew refugees. Then they would smuggle them back to the resort and arrange nearby meetups with Israeli naval commandos to bring them to their new home.

“It was truly incredible; so many people from an international team assembled in order to run this fake hotel,” Raff said, adding with a laugh that “they were actually quite good at hospitality; the resort actually was quite profitable.”

But the most compelling part of the story, according to Raff, was the bravery demonstrated by not only the Mossad and others who brought the refugees to safety, but the resilience shown by those determined to find religious freedom.

“The Mossad paid a very high price to bring these people to Israel, and the Ethiopian Jewish community left their homes and marched across the desert and refused to leave anyone behind,” he said. “These people all risked their lives to help one another, and that’s not a story you hear every day.” 

Born and raised in Israel, Raff was familiar with the plight of Ethiopian Jews. But he was not aware of the hotel — nor the magnitude of the operation. After learning of the event, he flew to Israel to track down Mossad agents who had actually worked at Arous, as well as some of the Ethiopians who fled to Jerusalem.

“What I found were, these are incredibly humble and modest people,” he said. “The kinds of people who risk their lives to serve others aren’t the ones searching for the spotlight, but I believed their story needed to be told.” 

Operation Brothers increased the number of Ethiopians living in Israel by nearly 5,000 percent, Raff revealed, demonstrating just how massive the mission actually was. 

“There was a very human aspect of people putting their lives on hold, risking everything, going to an unfriendly country where their lives were in danger, in order to help those who had been yearning to live in Jerusalem for years,” he said. “The journey was risky and thousands died, yet the community did everything to help each other get through it. I think the most incredible part of this mission was discovering just how far humans will go to help one another.”

In an era of negative headlines and divisive stories, Raff said he believes “The Red Sea Diving Resort” will remind viewers of the good in humanity and give hope to those who need it most. 

“We live in a world where sometimes dozens of people on a weekly basis drown in the Mediterranean, people who are just seeking a better life for themselves and their kids," he said. "We read those headlines and move on. I wanted to tell a story of what happens when people actually help each other and realize that we’re all the same and equal and connected.”

“The world can be a better place. We have the power to change the world. Maybe it’s not as drastic as relocating to Africa, but it can be something as small as being kinder to one another.”

Now available on Netflix, the film stars Chris Evans (Avengers film franchise) along with Haley Bennett, Alessandro Nivola, Michael Kenneth Williams, Michiel Huisman, Alex Hassell, Mark Ivanir, Greg Kinnear and Ben Kingsley.

The film is rated TV-MA for language, brief nudity and graphic bloodshed.

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