Last Ethiopian aliyah flight of Operation Rock of Israel arrives

Last Ethiopian aliyah flight of Operation Rock of Israel arrives

The last flight of Operation Rock of Israel, the latest effort to bring the remainder of the Falash Mura community in Ethiopia to Israel, landed this morning with some 300 new immigrants disembarking at Ben-Gurion Airport. 

Aliyah and Absorption Minister Pnina Tamana-Shata, who led the government’s efforts to restart the immigration of the remaining Falash Mura in Ethiopia, was on hand to greet the new immigrants, as was Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog.

Activists for the community have criticized the government for failing to bring all remaining members of the Falash Mura in Ethiopia to Israel, who number at least another 5,500. 

The new arrivals on Thursday were taken directly to their quarantine residences. When that is complete, they will be sent to absorption centers around the country and will be able to reunite with their family members here in Israel. 

In total, some 2,000 members of the Falash Mura community have been brought to Israel during the latest operation, which was approved by government resolution 429 last September, with the first flight arriving from Ethiopia on December 3. 

Among the 2,000 new immigrants have been 70 babies under a year old and 893 children in total, of whom 150 will begin first grade next year.

In addition, 35 people over the age of 70 have also arrived. 

Another 250 of the immigrants are aged between 18 and 24 and will soon enlist to the IDF. 

“Finished but not complete,” Tamana-Shata said upon the arrival of the last 200 immigrants of Operation Rock of Israel. 

“I am happy to have had the merit to lead Operation Rock of Israel to bring 2,000 children to their parents, who have waited for them for many years in Israel.”

MANY FALASH Mura families have been split up during the several operations to bring them to Israel due to the complex history and composition of the community, resulting in situations where parents have not seen children for many years. 

Some 5,500 members of the Falash Mura community remain in Ethiopia, while another 5,340 people have claimed immigration rights since 2010 with the backing of the Ethiopian Jewish leadership in Israel as well as prominent, mainstream rabbis from the religious-Zionist community in Israel. 

“The national mission of bringing all the remaining Jews of Ethiopia to Israel has still not ended,” said Tamano-Shata. “I want to remind everyone at this moving moment that we have an obligation to put an end to this painful saga, and with the establishment of a new and normal government, I will make sure that this happens.”

Jewish Agency chairman Isaac Herzog was also at the airport to welcome the new arrivals and described the event as a moving moment leaving many tearful.

“Families are being reunited after many years,” said Herzog. 

“It is also a moment which pinches one’s heart and reminds us all that the mission of bringing the remainder of Ethiopian Jews to Israel has not ended, and we must continue to work to complete the aliyah of Ethiopian Jews,” he said. 

ACTIVISTS FOR the Falash Mura have indeed expressed anger at the ongoing failure to immediately bring the remaining members of the community to Israel following years of delays. 

“While we rejoice over the 2,000 Ethiopian Jews who were granted approval to immigrate to Israel as part of Operation ‘Rock of Israel’ led by Immigration and Absorption Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata, along with the support of the Jewish Agency for Israel, we are deeply saddened over the thousands of Ethiopian Jews that the government has left behind, including many who have waited over 20 years to immigrate to Israel while separated from their loved ones,” said the Activists for Ethiopian Aliyah organization. 

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has violated his government’s resolution passed in 2015, which pledged to bring the entire remainder of Ethiopian Jewry in Addis Ababa and Gondar to Israel by the end of 2020,” it said. 

“Terminating the immigration from Ethiopia continues the painful family separation, while leaving the fate of thousands in question.  As long as the government continues to implement unjust immigration policies and quotas on the Jewish immigration from Ethiopia, we will continue to demand justice.”

Gelagey Tefareh, an activist with the group, immigrated to Israel in 2001 with his parents and five siblings. 

Another three siblings were left behind and have waited for 20 years to immigrate and see their parents again. Tefareh’s 98-year old father is ill and is praying he will be able to see his remaining three children once again. 

These people and others were left out of Operation Rock of Israel despite fulfilling the criteria of having first-degree relatives in Israel. 

The Falash Mura immigrate to Israel under the terms of family reunification laws, not the Law of Return, since their ancestors converted to Christianity, under duress, at the end of the 19th century.

They are required to undergo conversion through the Chief Rabbinate after arriving in Israel.

The large majority of the 7,000 people who remained in Ethiopia before Operation Rock of Israel and who were approved for immigration under government resolutions 716 and 429 are of paternal Jewish descent.  

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