JERUSALEM, Israel – Israel welcomed the arrival of 316 members of Ethiopia's Falash Mura Jewish community on Thursday after many of them spent years waiting for a chance to finally immigrate to the Jewish State. They are part of a group of 500 Ethiopians expected to immigrate to Israel this week.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara, greeted the new immigrants along with Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Israel’s first Ethiopian-born minister Pnina Tamano-Shata.
"I do not remember, for many years, when I have been moved so much at a sight of such refined Zionism that expresses all of its significance," Netanyahu said. "My wife Sara and I stood here with tears in our eyes at the welcoming, when we saw the immigrants, our Jewish brothers and sisters from Ethiopia leave the plane with baskets – like we remember, like I remember from my childhood – they come down and touch the ground, the land of Israel. The mother kisses the ground and carries an infant named Jerusalem, and another infant is named Esther. Esther and Jerusalem are coming to Jerusalem – this is the essence of the Jewish story."
Tamano-Shata, who serves as Israel’s Aliyah and Integration Minister, has been urging the Israeli government to bring home the thousands of Jews still waiting to make aliyah in her home country. Tamano-Shata herself was brought to Israel from Ethiopia when she was a three-year-old during a top-secret Israeli mission called Operation Moses in 1984.
“One of the national goals I set for myself as minister of immigration and absorption is to put an end to the saga of those waiting in Ethiopia, an injustice that has been crying out to the skies for decades, causing separation of families and imparting emotional damage on those fighting to reunite with their loved ones,” Tamano-Shata told The Times of Israel before leaving for Ethiopia last week to help organize the arrival of more immigrants.
“Five hundred of our people will now have the privilege of fulfilling the vision of our ancestors to reach Jerusalem,” she said. “The government of Israel cannot abandon and neglect our brothers and sisters who have been waiting in Ethiopia for years and years. This injustice must end and I will continue to work until the very last of those waiting makes aliyah and reunites with their family.”
The minister hopes to bring all of the remaining members of the Ethiopian community to Israel. The government approved the immigration of 2,000 members of the smaller Falash Mura community by February 2021. Although they are ethnically Jewish, Ethiopians from the Falash Mura community cannot come to Israel according to the Law of Return because their ancestors converted to Christianity many generations ago. They must receive special permission to return to Israel and are required to convert after immigrating.
Activists say approximately 7,000 members of the Falah mura community have waited years to come to Israel. The Israeli government in 2015 passed a decision to airlift the last of the Ethiopian Jews within five years. However, according to Jewish Agency figures, Israel has only evacuated 2,257 Ethiopians.
STAY UP TO DATE WITH THE FREE CBN NEWS APP
Click Here Get the App with Special Alerts on Breaking News and Top Stories