Last waves of immigration of the Falash Mura; 82 of 1,000 approved immigrants arrive in Israel.
82 Ethiopian Jews immigrated to Israel on Wednesday as part of a government decision from last year to bring Addis Ababa and Gondar’s last Jews to Israel.
This last wave of aliyah (meaning “going up”, Jewish immigration to Israel) is one of a few that will take place over the next year. Of the approximately 9,000 claiming to have Jewish roots, only a fraction of the Falash Mura community were approved for aliyah, mainly under the criteria of having family members already in Israel.
The Falash Mura refers to the “people without a land”- Ethiopians of Jewish ancestry, living and some practicing Judaism in Ethiopia. The vast majority live in Addis Ababa and Gondar and have suffered from persecution and anti-Semitism. Many of them converted to Christianity over the generations for safety and as an attempt to integrate into local communities. They however continue to be persecuted, many forced to live in Jewish-only villages.
Israel’s intelligence forces, including branches of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and the Mossad, have worked over the past decades to safely bring Ethiopians to the State of Israel. In the 1950’s, both the World Zionist Organization and the Jewish Agency began their work in Ethiopia, training emissaries and teaching local communities Hebrew. However, under dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam’s decree, aliyah was banned from Ethiopia. Israel then resorted to carrying out covert missions to bring Ethiopian Jews to Israel.
Through 1984-1985, approximately 6,500 Jews made aliyah on the covert Operation Moses through Sudan. Operation Solomon followed in May of 1991 when 14,000 Ethiopian Jews made aliyah. The Jewish Agency continued their work to bring the Jews of Ethiopia to their homeland through the 1990’s until Operation Dove’s Wings- the final mission through the years of 2012-2013.
In October of last year, Israel’s political cabinet finalized the approval for 1,000 Ethiopian Jews to make aliyah, 82 of those making the move on Wednesday.
Most Ethiopian immigrants come to Israel from extreme poverty. Israel continues to maintain over 17 absorption centers specifically for the Ethiopian community, where they are taught Hebrew, provided financial and living assistance, as well as academic opportunities and work assistance. The Jewish Agency has been committed for decades to providing aliyah assistance to new immigrants. Some of the services they provide are Jewish education for immigrants coming from countries where Judaism was illegal or dangerous to study, support in conversion to Judaism and subsidies for higher education and professional training.
Last December, the Israel Air Force (IAF) reported the first Ethiopian pilot cadet- Israel’s most revered and rigorous combat position. The progress was deemed as a sign of the Ethiopian Jewish communities integration into Israel society.