A group of 63 Ethiopian immigrants (olim) arrived in Israel Sunday night, the beginning of a new wave of aliya from Ethiopia in accordance with a government decision passed in August. According to the decision, the government will bring 9,000 Falash Mura to Israel by the end of 2020, starting with 1,300 Ethiopians who are expected to arrive by the end of 2016. This follows a three-year hiatus after a declaration of the “end of Ethiopian aliya,” which left many families separated.
Tears of happiness were shed Sunday night as some of those families were reunited after having been apart for as long as ten years. But for some, that joy was clouded by longing and uncertainty as many still have loved ones waiting in Gondar and Addis Ababa, both cities which have been affected by the violent riots which have have claimed dozens of lives in recent weeks.
In a welcome address to the newcomers at Ben Gurion Airport, MK Avraham Neguise (Likud) said he blessed the families who had been reunited after years of separation. "But in the same breathe, I don't forget those who still have family waiting."
Neguise, who himself made aliya from Ethiopia in 1985, has been instrumental in the cause of the Falash Mura.
Falash Mura is the name given to those of the Beta Israel community in Ethiopia and Eritrea who – under compulsion and pressure from missionaries – converted to Christianity during the 19th and 20th centuries.
Neguise, alongside MK David Amsalem (Likud), refused to vote with the coalition until a November 2015 cabinet decision to resume Ethiopian aliya was implemented, after it has been put on hold due to budgetary issues. Both MKs witnessed the first fruits of their efforts at Sunday's festive welcoming ceremony, alongside Immigration and Absorption Minister Sofa Landver and Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky.
Expressing his sorrow over the deadly terror attack in Jerusalem earlier Sunday, Neguise said it was was important to remember -specifically that day- that "aliya is the best way to strengthen Israel as a Jewish and democratic state."
“When I came here 31 years ago i was in the same situation you are in now.” he told the new olim. “With some effort, I managed to integrate in society, to get an education and to become a legislator. I believe that every one of you can also integrate and advance in Israel through personal efforts and equal opportunities.”
Sharansky hailed the arrival of the olim as "the last stages of a historic aliya that began with the covert operations Moses and Solomon." He assured the group that the rest of their relatives would be united with them in Israel and stressed that they would receive support settling into Israel, a message echoed by Landver.
The new olim were headed to Safed, where they will begin their new lives in Israel.