Ethiopian Jews flown to Israel in latest operation



Hundreds of Ethiopian Jews have been airlifted to Israel – the first of several thousand waiting to emigrate there in a long-running saga.
It comes weeks after Israel announced plans to do so, after failing to implement a previous pledge to take in the community.
The immigrants are related to Ethiopian Jews brought to Israel decades ago in a series of secret operations.
But questions over their eligibility to settle there held up the process.
The issue gained greater urgency in recent weeks as fighting between the Ethiopian government and local forces in the Tigray region threatened to spread south to Gondar city, where most of the Jewish community are in transit camps.
Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his political rival, Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz, greeted the 316 new arrivals at Ben Gurion Airport.
“My wife Sarah and I stood there with tears in our eyes at the welcoming,” Mr Netanyahu said in a statement, “when we see the immigrants, our Ethiopian Jewish brothers, leave the plane with baskets… come down and touch the ground, the land of Israel.
“You waited so long to realise the dream and today it is being realised.”
Immigration Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata – herself an Ethiopian-born immigrant brought to Israel in a clandestine airlift in 1984 – went to Ethiopia to oversee Thursday’s transfer, dubbed Operation Rock of Israel.
The community, known as Falash Mura, are descendants of Jews who converted to Christianity – many under duress – in the late 19th Century. In recent decades they have identified as Jewish again, living their lives in accordance with the faith.
However, unlike the Ethiopian Jewish community – known as the Beta Israel – previously evacuated to Israel, Falash Mura do not fulfil the criteria for automatic right to Israeli citizenship due to uncertainties over their ancestral lineage according to Jewish law.
The issue dragged on for years, until the government pledged in 2015 to transfer the whole community by the end of 2020.

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