Thousands attend memorial for Ethiopian Jews who died on the way to Israel

Thousands journeyed from across the country this year for the morning ceremonies where political leaders and Ethiopian Jewish dignitaries gave blessings and speeches.

June 5, 2016 12:37
2 minute read.

Netanyahu at a memorial ceremony for Jewish immigrants who died on the way to Israel from Ethiopia

Netanyahu at a memorial ceremony for Jewish immigrants who died on the way to Israel from Ethiopia

A memorial ceremony for Jewish immigrants who died on the way to Israel from Ethiopia, June 5, 2016‏. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)


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At a ceremony Sunday memorializing those who perished en route from Ethiopia to Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to eradicate racism in Israeli society.

“This is an alarming phenomenon among us. It’s something that is unacceptable,” he said at the national memorial ceremony held on Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl. “We are against this with all our might, and it has no place in Israel. You are the flesh of our flesh, an integral part of our nation, equal among equals.”

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The names of more than 1,500 Ethiopian Jews who set out for Israel but died on their trip, most in Sudan, are engraved on a monument at Mount Herzl.

Every year a ceremony is held to commemorate them on the eve of Jerusalem Day, in honor of their lifelong – but unfulfilled dream of reaching Jerusalem.

“Even in the darkest periods in our history, in the darkness of exile, the deepest of despair, there was always one light of hope that illuminated the way: Jerusalem, Zion,” Netanyahu told the assembled crowd.

“Who better than you know it. You saved the flame of Jewish life in Ethiopia, amid suffering and hardship. For many generations you clung to the dream of a return to Jerusalem, and that hope was fulfilled – you finally arrived home. You won, and we all won.”

President Reuven Rivlin also spoke at the ceremony, promising to spread the community’s story of devotion to their dream of aliya.

“I stand alongside the monument which tells your story – the story of the villages and towns from which you came, the story of the home left behind, the story of the long and painful journey which you chose to undertake, a story of yearning, of longing for Zion.

This story, is one of your heroism, of a strong and determined community,” said Rivlin. “My brothers and sisters, Israelis of Ethiopian origin. I often ask myself if, while you decided to set out on the journey, did you imagine the price, the price your of devotion to Jerusalem, which you were forced to pay. A heavy price; financially, physically, spiritually, and in the difficult acclimation.”

The president also reiterated the importance of the absorption of immigrants into Israel, saying that “Israeli society is obligated to continue to readdress the failures, and ensure aliya to Israel becomes more and more attractive.”

Immigration to Israel, he said, “places demands not only on the new arrivals, but first of all on the country to where they are arriving, that it should be fitting of the journey which they made to it. True, mistakes have been made despite the best intentions, many times we did not understand the challenges which lie before you.”

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