300 of Ethiopia’s 3,000 Falash Mura to leave for Israel
One of the immigrants, Damtie, has been waiting 23 years to immigrate to Israel.
“I have been waiting to leave because this is not my home. These are not my people. I am Jewish and Zion is my country,” said Damtie. On Tuesday, he and his whole family, dressed in their best clothes, loaded their only possessions—a serving dish and some clothing—onto a pickup truck bound for Gondar Airport, en route to Addis Ababa ahead of the final flight to Israel.
Operation Tzur Israel will allow up to 3,000 Ethiopians who identify as Falash Mura, descendants of Ethiopian Jews, to make Aliyah to Israel, where they will undergo conversion to Judaism; “I am Jewish and Zion is my country” says one of the immigrants; the Israeli immigration minister calls this “a historic event.”
Most have waited over 10 years to be reunited with family already in Israel. The tears, the emotion! This is a true reuniting of families. The atmosphere was festive at the Ethiopian city’s only synagogue as the congregations prepared to send off 300 Falash Mura community members who are moving to Israel. “Everyone is happy because today’s a day of hope,” said Abraham Zemenu, a 49-year-old regular, at the service Tuesday at the Hatikvah synagogue, a corrugated-metal structure with a Torah ark and seats for about 600 people.
Hatikvah means ‘hope’ in Hebrew and it is also the name of the Israeli national anthem. It also describes the emotion harbored by thousands of people in Ethiopia who identify themselves as Falash Mura, descendants of Ethiopian Jews who converted to Christianity about 200 years ago, sometimes under duress.