• Ethiopian Olim after arriving in Israel. | Photo: Marie-Louise Weissenböck
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Coming Home to Israel from Ethiopia

Marie-Louise Weissenböck - 17 October 2022

As the rescue mission in Ukraine continues, another wave of immigration is taking place from Ethiopia. Families that have long been separated are being reunited. Israel has committed to bring home up to 3,000 Ethiopian Jews before the end of 2022 as part of its ongoing emergency airlift known as Operation Tzur Yisrael (‘Rock of Israel’).

Here are some interesting facts given by Danielle Mor, Vice President, Israel and Global Philanthropy and Director of Christian Friends of The Jewish Agency:

How many Ethiopian Jews have come to Israel in the past years?

Since the establishment of the State, 95,000 Ethiopians have emigrated to Israel with the help of the Israeli government and The Jewish Agency. In the mid-1980s, approximately 8,000 immigrants arrived through Operation Moses through Sudan. In 1991, 14,000 immigrants arrived as part of Operation Solomon. In the summer of 2013, The Jewish Agency completed its leadership of Operation Dove’s Wings, which brought 7,000 immigrants from Ethiopia. To date, more than 2,000 new migrants have arrived during the ongoing Operation Tzur Israel. In November 2021, the Government of Israel renewed Operation Tzur Israel, enabling an additional 3,000 immigrants to unite with their first-degree relatives in Israel. The flights are planned to take place during the next few months.

Why does it take so long for some Ethiopian families to be reunited?

The reality is that persecution, communism, and the history of the Jews in Ethiopia created a base for life unique in the world. The Government of Israel has had to make difficult decisions in light of this reality.

Beta Israel (Ethiopian Jews) appear to have been isolated from mainstream Jewish communities for at least a millennium. They suffered religious persecution, and a significant portion of the community were forced into Christianity during the 19th and 20th centuries; those converted to Christianity came to be known as the Falash Mura. This Christian name given to Ethiopian Jews is derogatory, ‘Falash’ meaning intruder, landless, wanderer. They were not allowed to own land or turn over land to the next generation. Many converted in the hope that they would be accepted by Christians, which did not happen. Some converted under pressure, others voluntarily. But they continue to identify with the Jewish people and faith, and they have close relatives already living in Israel. Therefore, in 2015 the Israeli government approved the resumption of the Ethiopian Aliyah to reunite these separated families. The condition is for applicants to complete a successful Jewish conversion process.

Can you tell us something about the yearning of Ethiopian Jews to come to Israel?

In Ethiopia, all Jews want to make Aliyah. Beit ha Israel (Beta Israel) is a community that has been praying for this all their lives and believe that it can happen at any moment. The worst threat a parent can give their child is, “if you are naughty, we will not take you to Jerusalem.” It is not only about preparing to come to Israel, but to come to Zion, to Jerusalem.


Ethiopian young woman especially dressed in blue and white for her Aliyah. | Photo: Marie-Louise Weissenböck

In the fall of 2022 a plane with Ethiopian Olim, sponsored wholly by Christians for Israel will land at Ben Gurion Airport. Together, we can help these Ethiopian Jews reach their dream of returning to Zion! Please help the Ethiopian Jews who are eligible to make Aliyah and reunite them with their families!


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