May 25, 2023

As a child of survivors, I see my parents in every Ethiopian immigrant to Israel

On May 9, I was part of a delegation of the Jewish Agency for Israel that accompanied Ethiopian olim (immigrants) from Addis Ababa to Ben Gurion Airport and new lives in Israel. The mother had made aliyah in 1982 as part of Operation Moses, when Ethiopian Jewish immigrants trekked for weeks through the Sudan, hiding out from authorities in the daytime and walking by moonlight, to reach Israeli Mossad agents, who were secretly facilitating their transport to Israel.

But the son, due to family circumstances, was left behind. And here she was on the tarmac, praying and crying, and the embrace they had when the now grown man walked down the stairs, that depth of emotion after decades of waiting and yearning, was something that I will never forget.

The Ethiopian Jewish community dates back some 2,500 years, from around the time of the destruction of the First Temple. We know that they have always yearned, from generation to generation, to be in Jerusalem. Most of the Ethiopian Jews emigrated to Israel during the 1970s and 1980s and in one weekend in May 1992, a covert Israeli operation, dubbed Operation Solomon, airlifted more than 14,325 Ethiopian Jews to Israel over 36 hours. Those coming today are being reunited with family members who came during one of these earlier operations.