More than 300 Ethiopian Jews make Aliyah after years separated from relatives
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More than 300 Ethiopian Jews make Aliyah after years separated from relatives

Israeli prime minister says: 'My wife and I were standing there with tears in our eyes', calling the intake 'the essence of our Jewish and Zionist story'

  • Ethiopian olim exiting the plane after touching down at Ben Gurion Airport (Credit: Olivier Fitoussi, courtesy of The Jewish Agency for Israel)
    Ethiopian olim exiting the plane after touching down at Ben Gurion Airport (Credit: Olivier Fitoussi, courtesy of The Jewish Agency for Israel)
  • Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog with new Ethiopian olim (Credit: Olivier Fitoussi, courtesy of The Jewish Agency for Israel)
    Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog with new Ethiopian olim (Credit: Olivier Fitoussi, courtesy of The Jewish Agency for Israel)
  • Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata with new Ethiopian olim (Credit: Ministry of Aliyah and Integration and The Jewish Agency for Israel)
    Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata with new Ethiopian olim (Credit: Ministry of Aliyah and Integration and The Jewish Agency for Israel)
  • Ethiopian olim exiting the plane after touching down at Ben Gurion Airport (Credit: Olivier Fitoussi, courtesy of The Jewish Agency for Israel)
    Ethiopian olim exiting the plane after touching down at Ben Gurion Airport (Credit: Olivier Fitoussi, courtesy of The Jewish Agency for Israel)

 Hundreds of emigrating Ethiopian Jews have arrived in Israel after Benjamin Netanyahu finally made good on his 2015 pledge to reunite families.

More than 300 people landed at Ben-Gurion Airport on Thursday morning, many kissing the ground as they disembarked, as officials including Netanyahu Israel’s first Ethiopian-born minister lined up to greet them.

“My wife and I were standing there with tears in our eyes,” said Netanyahu. “This is the essence of our Jewish story, the essence of the Zionist story.”

Another 100 are due to arrive imminently, and although Israel’s religious authorities do not recognise them as Jewish, they all come from Jewish lineage.

In 2015, Netanyahu promised to bring them to Israel, but despite this week’s arrivals, up to 7,000 remain in Ethiopia.

Ethiopian olim exiting the plane after touching down at Ben Gurion Airport (Credit: Olivier Fitoussi, courtesy of The Jewish Agency for Israel)

The Jewish Agency said it was “part one of Operation Zur Israel” and follows ministerial pledges in October of this year to make good on the 2015 commitment and bring 2,000 Ethiopians to Israel, many of whom have been waiting for decades.

Ethiopian-born minister of aliyah and integration Pnina Tamano-Shata said it was “an attempt to bridge the decades-long gap for thousands of Ethiopian Jews who were left behind after Operation Solomon and the government decisions that followed”.

Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata with new Ethiopian olim (Credit: Ministry of Aliyah and Integration and The Jewish Agency for Israel)

Tamano-Shata added that the new arrivals had been waiting to “not only fulfill their dream of Israel and Jerusalem but to meet their basic request of reuniting with their families here in Israel… It was extremely difficult and unsettling for me to see so many living with malnutrition, poverty and in extreme conditions”.

Jewish Agency chair Isaac Herzog said: “It’s incredibly moving to watch… We will continue this airlift of 2,000 olim who will reunite with their families in Israel after many years of separation.”

Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog with new Ethiopian olim (Credit: Olivier Fitoussi, courtesy of The Jewish Agency for Israel)
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