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The Ethiopian Jews began arriving in Israel, as a community in 1984, during a special mobilization now called "Operation Moses".  This airlift, which was organized by the Israeli government with the sponsorship of US, Canadian and British organizations, brought the Ethiopian Jews, who had succeeded in crossing into Sudan. They were then flown to Belgium as no Israeli plane could land in Sudan. In Belgium, the passengers were then transferred to Israeli planes and flown to Israel. 8,000 Ethiopian Jews were rescued in this manner, but many were left behind.

The second "miracle" airlift took place on May 25, 1991, the Sabbath day in Israel. No one knew about it beforehand except for those people who were directly involved in the secret mission. The Israeli media honored the blackout, realizing that if word leaked out, the mission could be cancelled. This was "Operation Solomon", organized with the consent of Ethiopia, then in the middle of a civil war with Eretrea. Both sides agreed to a ceasefire for one day to allow Israeli planes to land and pick up the Ethiopian Jews who wanted to leave. Military, civilian and private planes - anything that could fly the distance - took off from Ben Gurion Airport in Israel, landed in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia (a 4 hour trip), refueled while loading up with passengers who were waiting on the tarmac in groups ready to board, flew back to Israel, refueled as the passengers disembarked, and flew again to Addis Ababa. This mission continued for 24 hours and brought out 14,000 Ethiopian Jews. No one in Israel who watched these scenes on TV will ever forget the Ethiopian Jews disembarking from the planes, dropping to their knees, and kissing the ground of their beloved Zion.

Who are the Ethiopian Jews?
The Ethiopian Jews were discovered by Prof. Joseph Halevi in 1877. Prof. Halevi had heard about the "Falasha" (which means stranger), as the Ethiopian Jews. Because they were considered "falasha" by other Ethiopians, the Ethiopian Jews moved into northern Ethiopia near Lake Tana and the Simien Mountains - the area now known as Gondar Province - so that they could live in peace and practice their religion without persecution. Halevi's student, Yankel Faitlovitch, went to live among the Ethiopian Jews and trained the youth to become teachers and leaders. One of his students, Yona Bogale, eventually became the leader of the Ethiopian Jewish community. Bogale came to Israel with Operation Moses.

How has the life of the Ethiopian Jews changed in Israel?
For many of the Ethiopian Jews, the absorption process has been very difficult. The hardest hit by the move to Israel has been the elders who never learned to read or write in Ethiopia where they had been farmers. Learning Hebrew and adjusting to life in a small, crowded apartment in the city have been impossible hurdles for them to overcome. The young children go to school, speak Hebrew among themselves and Amharic (Ethiopian) only to their parents and grandparents, and consider themselves Israeli.

For those who arrived as teenagers, the transition was difficult. Many had not had a high school education, so the Israeli government placed them in boarding schools to accelerate the learning process. It was very hard for many of them to acclimate and, as a result, many dropped out or opted not to matriculate. Today, 15 years later, the situation is improving. Ethiopian high school students no longer have to go to boarding schools. More students attend colleges and universities.
Progress is being made, but it is slow as many of these students have to depend on scholarships since their families can't afford to pay for their children's education. 52% of the Ethiopian families in Israel live below the poverty line, so it is a daily struggle for them to make ends meet.
         
FACTS ON ETHIOPIAN JEWRY’S ALIYAH TO ISRAEL
●   Operation Moses (Nov. 1984 – March 1985) – 8,000 olim - first major aliyah
●   Between Operation Moses and 1989 – 10,000 new immigrants
●   Operation Solomon (May 25, 1991) – 14,000+ olim – second major aliyah
●   Total number of Ethiopian immigrants brought to Israel until 2000 – 57,000
●   Total number of Ethiopian Jews in Israel at the end of 2010 – 160,000

The Ethiopian Jews in Israel
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The Forgotten People Fund

A charity registered in Israel # 58-032-322-8