In 2020, 934 Ethiopian Jews made Aliyah, an increase of more than 40% from 2019.
For more than 50 years, The Jewish Agency, along with our partners, The Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) and Keren Hayesod, has assisted over 95,000 Ethiopian Jews in their journey to Israel.
But there are still thousands waiting to make Aliyah and be reunited with family members. We are proud that in 2020, despite COVID, we were able to continue bringing our Ethiopian brothers and sisters home to Israel.
The first Ethiopian olim (immigrants) to arrive in Israel landed in May, with 119 landing on the annual Memorial Day for Ethiopian Jews who perished on their way to Israel and Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Day). Chairman of the Executive Isaac Herzog greeted them at the airport before the new arrivals entered quarantine at our absorption centers.
“I congratulate these new immigrants and every single one who came before them and endured untold suffering in order to realize their dream of Aliyah,” said Chairman Herzog.
Then, in September 2020, the Government of Israel approved the Aliyah of 2,000 members of the Ethiopian Jewish community to arrive in Israel by mid-March 2021. To make that happen, The Jewish Agency immediately launched Operation Zur Israel to reunite Ethiopian families in Israel after many years of separation. Yaliganesh Addis and her family were on Operation Zur Israel’s first flight in December 2020, reuniting her with her mother and siblings after a decade-long wait.
“I have been longing for this moment for 10 years,” said Kefale Addis, Yaliganesh’s little brother. Yaliganesh shared:
And to help with Operation Zur Israel, Shira, an Israeli Ethiopian who made Aliyah 30 years ago and who now works at The Jewish Agency’s Absorption Center in Bet Alfa, volunteered to go on Shlichut (emissary service) to help with the logistics on the ground in Ethiopia. Shira left Israel in December 2020 for what was supposed to be three weeks — but when Ben Gurion Airport shut down in early 2021 due to the increased risk of coronavirus variants, her short Shlichut became a three-month-long experience.
Once the Ethiopian immigrants arrived in Israel, and after quarantining, The Ministry of Aliyah and Integration and The Jewish Agency helped settle the olim in absorption centers throughout the country. There they receive support and guidance in all areas of life, from learning Hebrew to entering the workforce and the Israeli education system, and helping ease their transition into Israeli society.