Jewish Agency chairman Doron Almog returns to Ethiopia

Almog embarks on his first working visit to Ethiopia as Jewish Agency chairman and will visit the Jewish community centers in Gondar and Addis Ababa.

Almog (left) with the late prime minister Yitzchak Shamir + photo of olim from Ethiopia on the Tzur Israel operation. (photo credit: COURTESY OF THE JEWISH AGENCY)
Almog (left) with the late prime minister Yitzchak Shamir + photo of olim from Ethiopia on the Tzur Israel operation.
(photo credit: COURTESY OF THE JEWISH AGENCY)

Forty years after he led rescue operations of Ethiopian Jews as commander of the Special Forces’ Shaldag unit, Maj.-Gen. Doron Almog returns to Ethiopia on Sunday as chairman of the Jewish Agency to accompany the olim of Operation Tzur Israel.

Almog embarks on his first working visit to Ethiopia as chairman and will visit the Jewish community centers in Gondar and Addis Ababa. He will return to Israel while accompanying about 200 new immigrants.

“The true heroes of the Ethiopian aliyah are the olim themselves who have waited so long for this moment, yet never lost ‘hatikvah’ – the hope – that they would one day reach the Land of Israel.”

Eric Fingerhut

For Almog this is an exciting moment, coming full circle. In the 1980s, he commanded the Shaldag unit that took part in a series of secret operations to evacuate thousands of Ethiopian Jews from Sudan, after they embarked on a difficult and long journey by foot.

“It is a great privilege for me to return to Ethiopia, this time as the chairman of the Jewish Agency and to... help the members of the community realize their dream of immigrating to Israel and reuniting with their relatives in Israel after many years of waiting,” Almog said on the eve of his departure.

During the visit, Almog will visit the historic sites where Ethiopian Jews walked in the 1980s on their pilgrimage to Israel. He will also review the preparation activities for the aliyah process carried out by representatives of the Jewish Agency in community centers in Gondar and Addis Ababa and will meet with the immigrants before they immigrate to Israel.

 Most of the Ethiopian olim aren't considered entitled for aliyah according to Israel's Right of Return law, but offered citizenship as first degree relatives of Israeli citizens. Many of them will begin a process of conversion to Judaism after arriving in Israel.  (credit: COURTESY OF THE JEWISH AGENCY) Most of the Ethiopian olim aren't considered entitled for aliyah according to Israel's Right of Return law, but offered citizenship as first degree relatives of Israeli citizens. Many of them will begin a process of conversion to Judaism after arriving in Israel. (credit: COURTESY OF THE JEWISH AGENCY)

Almog will arrive in Ethiopia together with a senior delegation of leaders of the Jewish communities in North America, on behalf of the Jewish Federations of North America.

“The true heroes of the Ethiopian aliyah are the olim themselves who have waited so long for this moment, yet never lost ‘hatikvah’ – the hope – that they would one day reach the Land of Israel,” The organization’s president and CEO Eric Fingerhut said.

“It is a tremendous privilege to know that for decades, our federation system has played an instrumental role in the aliyah journey of these men, women and children, as well as in supporting their first steps in Israel.”

Operation “Tzur Israel” operates by virtue of a government decision led by Aliyah and Integration Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata.

In the first phase of the operation, which began in December 2020 and ended in March 2021, about 2,000 olim arrived in Israel. The second phase was launched in June 2021, when the government decided to bring an additional 3,000 more immigrants.

So far, about 1,250 immigrants from Ethiopia have immigrated to Israel during the second phase of the operation. Of the 200 immigrants on the upcoming flight this week, 40 are children and toddlers who will be integrated into the Israeli education system upon arrival.

Most of the olim aren’t considered to be entitled to aliyah according to Israel’s Right of Return law, but are instead offered citizenship as first degree relatives of Israeli citizens. Many will begin a process of conversion to Judaism after arriving in the Jewish state.