Christians helping speed return of last Ethiopian Jews

International Christian Embassy Jerusalem helps accelerate the urgent return of the last 8,700 Ethiopians Jews to Israel by sponsoring aliya flights over coming months.

Ethiopian Jews_311 (photo credit: JAFI/Brian Hendler)
Ethiopian Jews_311
(photo credit: JAFI/Brian Hendler)
The Jewish Agency for Israel has requested special assistance from the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem to help accelerate the return of the last 8,700 Ethiopian Jews to Israel by sponsoring direct aliya flights over coming months.
According to Howard Flower, ICEJ director of aliya operations, JAFI officials say the need is urgent, given the current drought and political turmoil in the region, as well as the growing medical problems of the Jewish community still in camps in the mountainous Gondar area.
Years of intense debate ended last November when the Israeli government and rabbinic authorities finally approved the aliya requests of over 8,000 Jews left in Ethiopia who are known as Falash Mura. These are Jews whose ancestors were pressured to convert to Christianity about 150 years ago for economic reasons but still sought to retain their Jewish identities and traditions.
The agency has been flying them to Israel at the rate of 200 per month in special flight groups of 100 passengers each. At the current rate, however, it will take up to four years to complete the initiative.
“The Jewish Agency is eager to speed up the process, and due to budget cuts they are very thankful for the help from the Christian Embassy,” said Flower.
“We are a long-time partner with JAFI in the great modern-day aliya, and this provides us with another amazing opportunity to assist in the final in gathering of the Jews to the land of their forefathers.”
Some of the Falash Mura require urgent medical treatment which they cannot receive in Ethiopia. Many also have been separated for years from close family members already in Israel.
Additionally, the severe drought that has been plaguing northern Africa has caused food shortages around Gondar, where most of the Falash Mura live.
Finally, there is concern that the chaotic revolutions in the Arab world might spread to Ethiopia, forcing Israel to consider yet another emergency airlift of Ethiopian Jews.
The request for ICEJ assistance came on the 20th anniversary of Operation Solomon, in which nearly 15,000 Ethiopian Jews were brought to Israel in a dramatic airlift involving 34 round-trip flights in 36 hours in late May, 1991.
A half decade earlier, Operation Moses rescued an initial wave of thousands of Ethiopian Jews who had fled the nation’s bitter civil war and were trying to journey to Israel by foot via Sudan.
The first ICEJ-sponsored flight in this accelerated aliya initiative will make the journey to Ben-Gurion Airport in August with 100 Ethiopian Jews on board.
“We plan to be waiting with a festive reception,” said Flower. •