One God in Heaven

The Fellowship  |  December 28, 2020

Fellowship Freedom Flight from Ethiopia December 2020
Fellowship Freedom Flight from Ethiopia, December 2020

A Fellowship staff member in Israel reflects on the arrival of new Ethiopian immigrants to Israel amid a pandemic.

Last week the news announced that the Israeli Knesset (parliament) is dissolving and new elections have been called for March 23, 2021. This will be Israel’s fourth national election in two years. At the same time, the government that just announced its dissolution decided that a third lockdown will take place in Israel because of the increase in COVID-19 cases.

At the same time that this news came out, I received a WhatsApp meme from a friend that said, “four elections, three lockdowns, two doses of the coronavirus vaccine, and ONE God in Heaven”. The meme is a parody on a well-known Passover song titled “Echad Me Yodea” (Who Knows One), but it tells us a true story. Elections, viruses, lockdowns – life can look dismal here in Israel, and in the rest of the world, too. Nevertheless, we must not forget that there is one God in heaven, and life is not as hopeless as some people think.

Welcoming 225 New Israelis

One of the best ways for Israelis – and all of us – to get through our current challenges is by keeping our perspective and focusing on good news. Elections, viruses, and lockdowns will pass. Another government will form and will eventually find a way to work together and make decisions that will be good for the citizens of Israel. A coronavirus vaccine is currently being distributed to Israel’s most vulnerable, which should help save lives and stem the tide of the disease. And though we have to deal with another lockdown, we will get through it as we did the first two.

And there is more good news. On December 22 a flight landed in Ben Gurion Airport carrying 225 new olim (immigrants) from Ethiopia. They were greeted warmly by representatives of The Fellowship (including our President and CEO, Yael Eckstein), the Jewish Agency, and Israel’s Ministry of Aliyah and Integration, all of whom worked together to make this flight happen. This is the second flight of Ethiopian olim in the context of the “Tzur Yisrael” (Rock of Israel) operation.

These olim have to stay in isolation just like those coming from other countries and will then be able to unite with their family members in Israel. They will live in immigrant absorption centers, where they will receive everything they need to help them adjust to their new lives, such as Hebrew classes and preparation for integrating into Israel’s educational system and job market. The Fellowship, together with its partners, will do everything possible to help them succeed.

Dreaming of Aliyah

It is remarkable that no matter what else is happening here in Israel, olim continue to come. Israel is a nation that was built by people from all over the world, and these particular olim are very special. They have been waiting to leave Ethiopia for Israel for years and are finally seeing their dream come true. Yes, it will be a difficult adjustment for them. Yes, it is true that many Ethiopian-Israelis who have been in Israel for years (or were born here) face unique challenges.

But this never stopped their brothers and sisters still in Ethiopia from dreaming of aliyah, and it won’t stop us from embracing them warmly and showing them that they belong here. And so, despite the confusion in our government and the continuing pandemic, we will work together to give these new olim a stable society, one that will provide them with a livelihood, an education for their children, and a sense of belonging. Good luck to them!