Ethiopian-Born Jews on Life in Israel: ‘It Was Always my Dream to Come to Jerusalem’

Israeli 'Kessim' or religious leaders of the Ethiopian Jewish community pray during the Sigd holiday marking the desire for 'return to Jerusalem', as they celebrate from a hilltop in Jerusalem, on November 20, 2014.

The Washington Post reports: ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s historic trip to East Africa last week was aimed at boosting relations. But his last stop, in Ethiopia, held special meaning for many of the 135,000 Jews of Ethiopian origin who live in Israel today.

Netanyahu is the first Israeli leader to visit the East African country. Formal ties were established between the two states in 1992.

Most Ethiopian Jews arrived in Israel in secret immigration operations that took place in the mid-1980s and early 1990s. In Operation Moses, during the ’80s, roughly 8,000 people were smuggled out of Ethiopia via Sudan and taken to Israel on secret flights organized by the Mossad, the Israeli foreign intelligence service. In Operation Solomon, in 1991, about 14,500 people were airlifted to Israel in less than 36 hours.

More recently, the immigrants have arrived via regular flights almost every month, yet an estimated 9,000 to 20,000 Ethiopian Jews remain in Ethiopia.

Today, about 85,900 Israelis of Ethiopian origin were born in Ethiopia, and 49,600 were born in Israel.

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