A group of 180 olim from Ethiopia fulfil a lifelong dream Wednesday as they land at Ben Gurion Airport on a special flight chartered by The Jewish Agency for Israel, marking the continuation of Operation Tzur Israel, the initiative to reunite 3,000 Ethiopians with their families in Israel during the coming months.
Wednesday’s arrival marks the first in a series of flights that are planned from Ethiopia during the next few months, as prospective olim who seek to reunite with their families in the Jewish state are currently awaiting Aliyah from Gondar and Addis Ababa. A second flight will land at Ben Gurion on Thursday, bringing 160 additional Ethiopian olim.
On Wednesday, the immigrants are accompanied by the Minister of Aliyah and Integration Pnina Tamano-Shata, as well as the Chairman of the World Zionist Organization (WZO) and Acting Chairman of the Jewish Agency Yaakov Hagoel. Minister Tamano-Shata and Hagoel visited Ethiopia to assess the immigrants’ preparations for Aliyah.
The operation was initially launched in December 2020 following a government decision led by Minister Tamano-Shata in October of that year. The Jewish Agency is responsible for preparing the Ethiopians for Aliyah and organizing their flights to Israel, in coordination with the Ministry of Aliyah and Integration, and in cooperation with the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
“The Government of Israel and the Jewish Agency are prepared for the absorption of these new Ethiopian immigrants,” Minister Tamano-Shata said. “Together, we will make sure that the immigrants finally fulfill their dream, and reach home and their families.”
In addition to the roles of the government and the Jewish Agency, the 3,000 olim in the current phase of the operation are arriving in Israel thanks to the support of the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) and Keren Hayesod, which both started the process of raising millions of dollars for this cause when the government announced its decision, together with the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ), International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, and friends of Israel from Korea. Senior leaders of JFNA, Keren Hayesod, WZO, and IFCJ join Wednesday’s Aliyah flight from Ethiopia.
“With the renewal of Operation Tzur Israel, thousands of new immigrants from Ethiopia will be able to fulfill their dream and unite with their relatives in Israel after many years of waiting,” said Acting Chairman Hagoel. “With the support of the Jewish people and the Government of Israel, the Jewish Agency will accompany the new immigrants in the process of Aliyah to Israel together with world Jewry. We will also assist with their integration in absorption centers throughout the country, in cooperation with the Ministry of Aliyah and Integration. It is our responsibility to help them as they take their first steps in Israel.”
Symbolically, Wednesday’s flight comes only several days after Israel marked this year’s Jerusalem Day, celebrating the 55th anniversary of the reunification of the Israeli capital, which is also the official day commemorating the Ethiopian Jews who perished on their journey to Israel.
In November 2021, the Government of Israel renewed Operation Tzur Israel, enabling an additional 3,000 olim to unite with their first-degree relatives in Israel. This same government action stipulates that the Minister of the Interior and the Minister of Aliyah and Integration formulate a comprehensive plan to complete the immigration process for those who are awaiting Aliyah in Gondar and Addis Ababa.
95,000 Ethiopians have immigrated to Israel since the establishment of the state, with the help of the Israeli government and The Jewish Agency. In the mid-1980s, approximately 8,000 olim arrived through Operation Moses through Sudan. In 1991, 14,000 olim 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 olim from Ethiopia. To date, more than 2,000 olim have arrived in the ongoing Operation Tzur Israel, with that total expected to grow to 5,000 following the flights that are planned in the next few months.