GONDAR, ETHIOPIA: August 19, 2013 -- At a ceremony held in Gondar, Ethiopia, Jewish Agency for Israel Chairman Natan Sharansky handed to the city’s mayor the key to the Jewish school, which educated thousands of children before their immigration to Israel.
The Gondar school, funded and maintained by The Jewish Agency, taught mathematics, physics, computer skills and English to some 2,500 children in order to prepare them for life in Israel. The Jewish Agency donated all the school buildings and equipment to the municipality Gondar.
"Jews lived in Gondar for 2,500 years however, their longing to return home never weakened,” Mr. Sharansky said at the ceremony. “Today we bring to an end a journey that spans thousands of years -- the conclusion of Operation Dove's Wings.
“I express my gratitude to the municipality of Gondar, our longtime partners in this historic endeavor. For us it is very symbolic that the Jewish community here is leaving behind a place of study."
The Jewish Agency’s longtime partner in resettling Ethiopia’s Jews in Israel, Israel Housing Minister Uri Ariel, also participated in the closing ceremony.
"This school was created to level the educational playing field between immigrants to Israel and native-born Israelis,” Mr. Ariel said. “We are committed to providing these new olim (immigrants) with a top-notch education once they arrive in Israel as well so that they will be able to thrive in Israeli society."
Operation Dove's Wings was launched in November 2010 following the Government of Israel’s decision to absorb thousands of Falash Mura (people with Jewish lineage whose ancestors converted to Christianity under duress). The Jewish Agency was asked to prepare these future immigrants for life in Israel and to assist anyone who Israel’s Interior Ministry determined to be eligible for resettlement in the Jewish State.
To this day, The Jewish Agency has brought some 7,000 immigrants from Ethiopia, the vast majority Falash Mura. The Jewish Agency’s community center in Gondar -- with the assistance of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews and Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) -- operated educational activities and provided welfare services to eligible immigrants. Upon their arrival in Israel, these new immigrants are housed in 17 absorption centers around the country, run by Israel’s Ministry of Absorption and The Jewish Agency.
Later this month, on August 28, the final en masse Aliyah flight of 400 Falash Mura will arrive in Israel and with it a close the historic mission. A welcome ceremony will take place at Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport for the new immigrants, their family members who immigrated years earlier and also representatives of the organizations that helped The Jewish Agency bring Ethiopian immigrants to Israel and assisted with their absorption. These organizations include the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption, Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA), Friendship Fund, and Keren Hayesod, among others.