Arrival on Thursday marks the “opening phase of a plan to bring some 2,000 members of the community to Israel from Ethiopia.”
Amid an escalating armed conflict in northern Ethiopia, Israel has kick started an operation aimed at airlifting around 2000 Ethiopian Jews from the country. The first flight of this mission arrived on Thursday carrying 319 members of Ethiopia’s Jewish community. They were greeted by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and leading members of his government at Ben Gurion airport.
“My wife, Sara, and myself were standing there with tears in our eyes,” Prime Minister Netanyahu said at a welcoming ceremony, remembering the Aliyah, or the return, of the community to its historic home in the 1980s and 1990s. “This is the essence of our Jewish story, the essence of the Zionist story. The story of the Ethiopian immigration to Israel, with all its lethal dangers and hardships, will be taught to all Israeli schoolchildren.”
The operation is being organized by Israel’s Immigration and Absorption Minister, Pnina Tamano-Shata, the country’s first cabinet member of Ethiopian descent. She visited the East African country last week to oversee the preparations.
“I’m currently pushing for a full and fast solution for those waiting with a framework that will soon be presented to the government of Israel,” Tamano-Shata said. “It moves me to return as a government minister to the country where I was born and left at the age of three on Operation Moses, this time to carry out a national mission on behalf of the government of Israel.”
The Times of Israel on Thursday reported the welcoming ceremony for the returning Ethiopian Jews at the Ben Gurion airport.
Waving Israeli flags as they came down the steps of the aircraft, over 300 members of Ethiopia’s Jewish community arrived in Israel on Thursday in a special airlift from Gondar headed by Absorption and Immigration Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata.
The celebratory arrival, attended by several of Israel’s leaders, marked the opening phase of a plan to bring some 2,000 members of the community to Israel from Ethiopia in what has been dubbed Operation Tzur Israel. (…)
The first of the 316 immigrants to emerge from the Ethiopian Airlines jet led a young girl with one hand and with his other blew a ram’s horn, or shofar, that in Jewish tradition is used to signal a moment of redemption.
Some of the passengers kissed the ground as soon as they reached the tarmac, another tradition for those arriving for their first time in the Holy Land. Many were dressed in traditional Ethiopian robes, and many women held babies in their arms. Festive Hebrew songs were blasted over loudspeakers.
Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz was also present at Thursday’s ceremony. “The State of Israel was set up to be a home for the Jewish people,” he said. “Welcome to Israel, welcome to those who are returning home.”
“I am moved to be here,” Gantz added, who retired as Israel’s army chief five years ago, had participated as a young officer in the 1991 covert military operation codenamed “Solomon” which rescued more than 14,000 Ethiopian Jews in the span of just a day and a half.
Today, Israel is home to over 120,000 Ethiopian Jews. The community is well integrated, with its members playing prominent role in county’s political, economic, and cultural life.
The Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI), the leading non-profit organization which partnered with Israeli’s Ministry of Immigration in the latest airlift, outlined the history of Aliyah, or immigration to Israel, of the Ethiopian Jews:
In the mid-1980s, “Operation Moses” aided the arrival of 8,000 Ethiopian Jews from refugee camps in Sudan to Israel, via intermediating countries, by foot, planes, and boats.
In the late 1980s and early 90s, 150,000 Ethiopian Jews moved closer to Addis Ababa, the center for Aliyah activities in Ethiopia, to await rescue. “Operation Solomon” in May 1991 saw 14,000 Ethiopian Jews arrive in Israel aboard IDF, El-Al, and Ethiopian Airlines aircrafts after American arbitration helped the Israeli government reached a settlement with Mengistu and the rebels, allowing the rescue to take place within 34 hours.
Throughout the 1990s, the GOI, along with The Jewish Agency. assisted Ethiopian Jews of the Qwara Province to reach the Jewish State. Since June 2008, The Jewish Agency, at the request of the Israeli government, has continued to make Aliyah from Ethiopia possible, according to the Law of Return 1970 Amendment of “Zera Israel” from Ethiopia.
Zera Israel refers to those who are blood descendants of Jews but, for one reason or another, who are not considered legally Jewish according to religious law. It literally translates to “Seed [of] Israel.”
Many of the Ethiopia’s Jews belong to the Falash Mura ethnic group which has lived in country’s highlands for around 2,500 years. An estimated 14,000 members of the Jewish community are still waiting to be brought home to Israel, media reports said. Israeli Government has pledged to airlift around 2000 of them by the end of the year.DONATE
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