Israeli citizens of Ethiopian descent and activists who championed the cause of Ethiopian Jewish immigration gathered en masse outside the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on Sunday, demanding immediate action to rescue eligible candidates for Aliyah from the conflict-stricken region of Gondar.
Leading the charge was Surafel Alamo, coordinator of the Struggle to Save Ethiopian Jewry. Against the backdrop of ongoing battles in Gondar and its surrounding areas, Alamo and his fellow demonstrators sought to draw attention to the dire situation faced by those awaiting immigration in camps.
Israel carried out a rescue operation on Thursday, evacuating over 200 Israeli and Ethiopian citizens from Ethiopia due to violent clashes between the Ethiopian Army and the FANO militia. Three planes transported Israeli citizens, Jewish Agency staff, Project TEN volunteers, and eligible immigrants to Israel. The operation was a joint effort between the Prime Minister's Office and The Jewish Agency, led by Jewish Agency security officers.
"Last Thursday saw a rescue flight depart from Ethiopia to Israel, an endeavor that, despite its noble intention, left over a thousand qualified individuals behind in Ethiopia," a statement on behalf of the Struggle to Save Ethiopian Jewry. "These candidates for Aliyah were trapped within the besieged and volatile confines of the Gondar camp, awaiting their chance for a new life," they said. Yet according to the Israeli government, those who are Jewish or of Jewish descent have already made aliyah, therefore explaining that there aren't any Jews left in Ethiopia.
They added that "the Knesset had been informed that a staggering 4,226 individuals from camps in Gondar and Addis Ababa had submitted Aliyah requests. As the conflict continued to escalate across Ethiopia, particularly in regions like Gondar, where clashes between militias and the national army persisted, those awaiting Aliyah found themselves facing an imminent danger to their lives."
A moral obligation for the Ethiopian Jewish community's safety
Alamo, who was instrumental in galvanizing the movement, emphasized, "While Israel has historically demonstrated its ability to rescue Jews in times of crisis, we found ourselves in a situation where the response seemed insufficient. The Ethiopian Jewish community was in distress, and it was our moral obligation to ensure their safety and well-being."
Former Member of Knesset Dr. Avraham Neguise (Likud) repeated this sentiment, stating, "The circumstances called for swift and resolute action. Lives were hanging in the balance, and we had to uphold our commitment to the Jewish people."
"The circumstances called for swift and resolute action. Lives were hanging in the balance, and we had to uphold our commitment to the Jewish people."Dr. Avraham Neguise
Last week, before the rescue mission took place, a senior official within the Jewish community in Ethiopia told The Jerusalem Post that there are more potential olim, as opposed to less than one- hundred who came on the flights (in addition to Israeli citizens). “Gondar, a city with a population of approximately 9,000 individuals from the Zera Yisrael (blood descendants of Jews who aren’t halachically Jewish), has seen its airport shut down for a week due to the conflict. An Israeli government decision to bring in 3,000 immigrants to Israel unearthed 4,200 eligible candidates, with plans to allocate more resources for an increased number,” the official added.