As we celebrate the 25th anniversary of The Fellowship’s On Wings of Eagles program, we’d like to share what Rabbi Eckstein wrote about the dramatic story of Ethiopia’s Jews:
Little attention was paid to this community of Jewish exiles – believed to be members of the lost Jewish tribe of Dan – until the 1950s. Over the next two decades, Ethiopia and Israel enjoyed positive diplomatic relations, which was a hopeful sign to many in the Ethiopian Jewish community that they might one day return to their biblical homeland. Then, in 1973, Ethiopia severed relations with Israel due to pressure from Arab states in the wake of the Yom Kippur War.
After this, the plight of Ethiopian Jews became bleaker and bleaker. Subject to dictatorial rulers and increasingly harsh restrictions on practicing their faith, the community suffered greatly. It became clear that something had to be done. Israel finally took action, and in 1984, the covert “Operation Moses” airlift brought thousands of Ethiopian Jews to safety – and freedom – in Israel. More immigration followed, much of it funded by The Fellowship.
Ethiopian aliyah (immigration to Israel) has been a boon to the Jews of Ethiopia. Though they face the challenges of learning a new language and adapting to a new culture, once in Israel they have a chance at a new, better life. For them, coming to Israel is the fulfillment of a generations-long dream. Ethiopian aliyah is also a boon to the entire state of Israel; Ethiopian Jews have made Israel a better, more welcoming, more vibrant nation.