Hundreds of Ethiopian Jews make Aliyah

Hundreds of Ethiopian Jews from the Falash Mura community arrived in Israel on Thursday as the first out of several thousand who have been waiting to make Aliyah and are now doing so under ‘Operation Rock of Israel.’

Their move to the land had been delayed for years because of questions over their eligibility, leaving most of them living in transit camps. They are related to tens of thousands of Ethiopian Jews who immigrated to Israel in secret operations in 1984 and 1991.

Ethiopian Jews arrive in Israel on ThursdaySome of the Ethiopian Jews arriving in Israel on Thursday (photo by: Israel GPO)

Israel has been accused of delaying this remaining group – the main issue being a matter of religion. People who were born Jewish but have converted away from Judaism out of free will do not currently have the right to make Aliyah.

But the issue has become more urgent recently due to fighting between the Ethiopian government and local forces in the Tigray region, which threatens to spread to Gondar city, where most of these Jews now live.

The first group that landed at Ben Gurion Airport on Thursday numbered 316 and was accompanied by Israeli Absorption Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata, who had been in Ethiopia for several days before the flight. They were given a special reception which was attended by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Minister of Defence Benny Gantz, Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi and Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog.

Benjamin Netanyahu said he did not remember being so excited in many years, declaring that a mother descending from the plane:

“kisses the ground and carries a baby named Yerushalayim [Jerusalem], and another
baby named Esther. Esther and Yerushalayim, come to Jerusalem – this is
the essence of the Jewish story, this is the essence of the Zionist story.”

Operation Rock of Israel’s second flight landed at Ben-Gurion Airport this morning, with another 120 members of the Falash Mura community on board.

Aliyah Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata has led the efforts to bring these remaining members of the community from Ethiopia to Israel. She went there last week, with ministry staff and officials from the Jewish Agency, to coordinate the arrival of 2,000 people who were accepted for Aliyah two months ago.