One of two current books about Israeli rescue of threatened Jews (see Hillel's Operation Babylon, reviewed below), this new work from journalist Gruber (Raquela, 1978; Haven, 1983) focuses on the black Jews of Ethiopia--their culture, their rescue from an inimical Marxist regime, and their integration into Israeli society. The only American correspondent allowed to eyewitness the mid-80's rescue, Gruber tells her story through re-creation of conversations, dramatic personal incidents, and individual and family straggles. This is history from the bottom up, history through the emotions of its subjects. What is missing in this close-up technique is the real drama of seemingly bureaucratic procedures. When, for instance, Gruber begins to describe the US State Department's successful intrigues to help the Ethiopian Jews, the pace quickens and the story picks up, but for too brief a time. This wider view is quickly narrowed again, leading to a certain incoherency in the text. Gruber's prose is serviceable, but hardly elegant: her writing often seems tired. And that's unfortunate, because the lazy prose has for its subject the very energetic Ethiopian Jews. The stories that emerge of such men as Yona ben Naftali are powerful hymns to the human quest for religious liberty. At her best moments, though, Gruber makes us feel what it's like to be an Ethiopian Jew. It is the ability to create that empathy that is this book's only gift.