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Beta Israel: Let my people go (Part 2)

Posted on 5/5/2013 by in Operation Moses Operation Solomon Ethiopian Jews Beta Israel

Make sure to read Part 1 of this incredible story.

The community remained in the province of Gonder, but the rest of the Jewish world was unaware of their existence. Over time, the awareness of Jews living in persecution in Ethiopia grew and the rest of the world became aware that there were Jews living in Ethiopia. Well into the 20th century, they were still not allowed to own land in Ethiopia. Ethiopian Jews were treated poorly and used as scapegoats by their neighbors for any misfortune that arose.

The situation escalated into the 1970’s when racial conflicts arose in Ethiopia. 2,500 Jews were killed and 7,000 made homeless. The situation became so unbearable that groups of Jews began to flee Ethiopia to refugee camps in the neighboring country of Sudan. It was the beginning of the exodus, and those caught trying to leave were imprisoned and tortured. In the 1980’s, any Jew caught traveling was charged and imprisoned. The leaders of the Beta Israel community were routinely harassed or imprisoned as “Zionist spies” and learning Hebrew was forbidden, as it was seen as preparation for immigrating to Israel.

In the 1980’s, extreme famine hit Ethiopia and Jewish communities around the world prompted Israel to put pressure on the Ethiopian government to release Ethiopian Jews.

Starting in November 1984, Israel organized Operation Moses, a top secret mission to rescue members of Beta Israel to the land of Israel. At the beginning of 1985, 8,000 Jews had already been airlifted from the poverty-stricken country. On January 5, 1985, the news of this operation was leaked to the press and it created a furious reaction all over the Arab world. The rescue mission was halted for fear of an Arab uprising.

The rescue continued with Operation Solomon in May 1991, this time with more efficiency. In 36 hours and 34 aircrafts, Israel airlifted almost double the amount Operation Moses did - another 14,324 were added to Israel’s Ethiopian population. The seats were taken out of the planes so that more people could fit. Aryeh Oz, who piloted the El Al 747 cargo plane, reported that he was carrying 1,087 passengers; twice the number it was supposed to hold.

Since then until present day, small waves of immigration are still coming from Ethiopia, mostly those belonging to the Falash Mura group.

Ethiopian Jews are very thankful to be in Israel, are very willing to learn the language and want to fit into Israeli society. However, they have encountered racism and bigotry in the land that they and their ancestors dreamed about. Although some of them work hard to get through university and into the workforce, there are many who are unemployed or who can only get low-paying jobs such as cleaning staff. Beta Israel still has many challenges to face as they make their presence known and build their community in the Promised Land.

You can be an encouraging force in the lives of the Beta Israel community. Your donation will give food to some of the poorer families and show them that someone cares and is looking out for them! Send your gift of support by clicking here.