JERUSALEM, ISRAEL: Some 450 Ethiopians boarded two Jewish Agency-chartered flights bound for Israel on Wednesday, August 28 and arrived in Tel Aviv a few hours later as immigrants.
Hundreds of relatives who have been living in Israel were at the airport to meet them.
Among them were Bertuken, whose sister will join her and their mother at Mevasseret Zion Absorption Center. The immigrants will be housed at the 17 Absorption Centers around the country operated by The Jewish Agency in partnership with the Ministry of Absorption. There they will continue to learn Hebrew and other skills to ease their integration into Israeli society.
Another family, Alamu and Enguday Eshete of Holon, were at the ceremony as well. They were reunited with their daughter, Sinedu (25), after nine years of separation, and Enguday met her two grandchildren for the first time today.
Since Dove’s Wings’ inception by the Government of Israel in 2010, The Jewish Agency has brought 7,000 Ethiopian Jews to Israel, the majority of whom are members of the Falash Mura community, and several hundred of whom were eligible for Aliyah through Israel’s Law of Return.
“The Jewish community of Ethiopia is one of the oldest in the world, with roots reaching back to the times of King Solomon and Queen Sheba. For thousands of years this community has been yearning for Zion. By completing the Journey of Operation Dove's Wings, we close the circle on a journey that began 3,000 years ago," said Chairman of The Jewish Agency, Natan Sharansky, as he welcomed the new immigrants.
While, Wednesday's flights bring this historic effort to a dramatic close, "the work is not over. Now we have to make sure these new immigrants integrate into Israeli society." said Housing Minister, Uri Ariel, who has labored for the past 20 years to bring Ethiopians Jews to Israel. He promised to "work tirelessly to make sure these new immigrants receive the loan and mortgage benefits to which they are entitled. This is my duty as well as the government's.”
Speakers at the welcoming ceremony also included Sofa Landver, Minister of Immigrant Absorption, International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ) President Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, Keren Hayesod-United International Appeal Chairman Eliezer (Moodi) Sandberg, as well as KH-UIA member Artum Kleinman and Jewish Federations of North America President and CEO Jerry Silverman, among others.
Sharansky thanked The Agency’s partners for their support in bringing these new immigrants home to Israel and in facilitating their absorption into Israeli society a group effort that began in 1948 and which has, to date, brought 92,000 Ethiopians Jews to Israel. Sharansky added that The Jewish Agency will continue to help all those who are eligible for Aliyah, per Israel’s Ministry of Interior, move to Israel, as The Agency does for Jews the world over.
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein of the IFCJ’s wished the the new immigrants a speedy transition to their new home, and promised to continue to support Ethiopian immigrants.
“Thanks to the generosity of Jewish communities around the world, Keren Hayesod has been able to bring immigrants to Israel and help them thrive once here,” said KH-UIA Chairman Eliezer (Moodi) Sandberg.
"Today we celebrate a new chapter in the remarkable story of how the Jewish community led the historic campaign to bring Ethiopian Jewry home to the Land of Israel, which continues today as Ethiopian Israelis make their mark in Israeli politics and culture,” said President and CEO of JFNA Jerry Silverman.
To read more about the history of Ethiopian Aliyah, click here.