And there is hope for thy future, saith the LORD; and thy children shall return to their own border. (Jeremiah 31:16)
The 450 new immigrants were the final of over 7,500 eligible to come over in the concluding segment of Israel’s Operation Dove’s Wings, which began three years ago. The Ethiopians brought over are known as Falash Mura, or Ethiopian Jews who converted to Christianity in the 19th and 20th centuries largely due to persecution and economic woes but maintained a distinct communal identity.
The immigration program has not been without its controversy. The Falash Mura programs has been plagued by ongoing strife surrounding the group’s limited immigration to Israel and those left behind; with some questioning the group’s connections to Judaism and others arguing that Israel should have taken more of them in.
Some 12,000 members of the Falash Mura community are still in Ethiopia, having not qualified for immigration. Yesh Atid MK Dov Lipman urged the government to reconsider. “I welcome the new Immigrants arriving today. However, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of daughters, sons, mothers, fathers, brothers, and sisters of Ethiopians who are already in Israel who are being left behind. And, we won’t leave them behind,” he said. “I visited Gondar last year and met them. I saw their tears, I heard their cries, and I was inspired by their drive to move to Israel and be reunited with their loved ones. I call on the government and the Jewish Agency to keep all services in Gondar in place until every single relative of Israelis has their appeal heard by the special committee set up by the Interior Committee and commit not to rest until I know that no families remain torn apart.”
Hundreds of Ethiopians flooded Ben Gurion airport to greet the new arrivals.
Last week, Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky turned over the keys to the Jewish school of Gondar to the Ethiopian city’s mayor. A ceremony at the school came as the final flight of Ethiopian immigrants prepared to leave for Israel.
“Jews lived in Gondar for 2,500 years; however, their longing to return home never weakened,” Sharansky said at the ceremony. “Today we bring to an end a journey that spans thousands of years — the conclusion of Operation Dove’s Wings.”