Ethiopia: Israel – Ethiopian Immigrants Get Warm Welcome

One hundred more Ethiopian Jews are expected to arrive on Friday as part of Operation Rock of Israel. This will bring the total number to 2,000 by the end of January 2021.

Hundreds of Ethiopian immigrants on Thursday arrived in Israel, as the government took a step toward carrying out its pledge to reunite hundreds of families split between the two countries.

Some 316 people landed aboard the Ethiopian Airlines flight, with many waving flags or stopping to kiss the ground. Many were dressed in traditional Ethiopian robes, and many women held babies in their arms.

Although the families are of Jewish descent and many are practicing Jews, Israel does not consider them Jewish under religious law. Instead, they were permitted to enter the country under a family-unification program that requires special government approval.

A large delegation of Israeli officials welcomed the group, and Pnina Tamano-Shata, the country’s first Ethiopian-born Cabinet minister, traveled to Ethiopia to join them on the flight.

“My wife Sara and myself were standing there with tears in our eyes,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahusaid at a welcoming ceremony. “This is the essence of our Jewish story, the essence of the Zionist story.”

Netanyahu fails to implement 2015 agreement

Community activists have accused the government of dragging its feet in implementing a 2015 decision to bring all remaining Ethiopians of Jewish lineage to Israel within five years. Netanyahu’s Likud party repeated that pledge before national elections early this year.

The Struggle for Ethiopian Aliyah, an activist group promoting family unification, estimates some 7,000 Ethiopian Jews remain behind in Ethiopia, some of whom have been waiting for years to join their families.