On Tuesday, December 22, a flight carrying 225 Ethiopian olim (immigrants) arrived in Israel. This is the second flight of Operation Tzur Israel, a partnership between the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (The Fellowship), the Israeli government, and the Jewish Agency to bring 2,000 Jews from Ethiopia to Israel.
The flights follow weeks of armed conflict in Ethiopia that have threatened the Jewish community in the northern city of Gondar. The Fellowship, which is the largest Christian-funded provider of aliyah (immigration to Israel), has committed $500,000 toward the relief effort.
“When I shared the plight of these Jews in Ethiopia, some of whom have waited for years to make aliyah, our supporters did not hesitate to respond,” said Yael Eckstein, President and CEO of The Fellowship. “For our Christian supporters, this is more than a humanitarian crisis — it’s a spiritual crisis. Their generosity is driven by a religious duty to show love to the Jewish people wherever there is need, and once again, their love has not disappointed.”
Ethiopian Jews wishing to immigrate to Israel faced a grueling 12-hour bus ride from Gondar to the capital city of Addis Ababa. For people like Ayasu Atala, the wait was insignificant. “After 22 years of waiting in Gondar, we finally got the news that we’re making aliyah to Israel. I was so happy.” Ayasu, who made aliyah with his wife Atekalet and their two children, admitted the dream at times seemed distant: “There were times when we almost lost hope… Thank God, this will also finally be behind us and we’ll be able to start a new life.”
Others like Ganeta Balata are eagerly waiting in Israel for family members to come home: “My parents and I don’t stop crying, but now these are tears of joy and excitement. We prayed and cried every day for the gift of our family being reunited.” Ganeta lives in Be’er Sheva and has not seen her brother and two sisters in over 12 years. “A year ago during Passover we prayed that we would celebrate the next Passover together. It’s very symbolic for us that starting today we’ll be able to celebrate all the holidays together.”
Over 500 Ethiopian Jews have returned to Israel through Operation Tzur Israel in 2020. The Fellowship, which helped 80,000 Ethiopian Jews return to Israel between 1985-2013, will help the remaining 1,500 Ethiopian Jews return to Israel in 2021.