Ethiopians gathered on Mt. Herzl to commemorate the thousands who died on their way to Israel.
“The Ethiopian immigrants did not find a rose paradise here,” Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said on Wednesday at ceremony dedicating a monument to the memory of 4,000 Ethiopian Jews who died on their way to Israel.
Minister of Immigrant Absorption Ze'ev Boim, Chairman of Executive of The Jewish Agency and the World Zionist Organization Zeev Bielski and heads of the Ethiopian community also took part in the memorial service.
“The Promised Land did not explain things to the Ethiopian immigrants, despite the fact that the State of Israel has invested great efforts and resources in absorbing the immigrants, and I promise that it will keep investing as much as is necessary,” Olmert said.
“The monument we are dedicating today symbolizes the victory of the Jewish spirit,” said Boim. “This is a symbol of the State of Israel's recognition of its sons and daughters that paid with their lives to immigrate to Israel, a symbol of the unbreakable link between the Holy Land and the Jewish people in Israel and in the Diaspora.”
The mass exodus of the Ethiopian Jews began in 1983 and 1984, when they secretly began moving towards the Sudanese border. In the Sudanese camps, the Ethiopians became victims of murder, rape, disease, robbery and hunger.
In November 1984 some 8,000 immigrants were brought to Israel in Operation Moses. Ethiopians were not brought to Israel until Operation Solomon in 1991 when some 14,000 immigrants were brought to Israel within 36 hours.
Today, the Ethiopian community in Israel is comprised of 110,495 people, 75,969 are immigrants and 34,526 are Israeli-born.