Photo by Eitan Elhadez-Barak/TPS on 3 December, 2020

302 Ethiopian Jews Arrive in Israel Despite Airport Closure

Jewish World By Aryeh Savir/TPS • 14 February, 2021

Jerusalem, 14 February, 2021 (TPS) -- A group of 302 Ethiopian Jews landed at Ben Gurion Airport on Friday, another phase of Operation Tsur Israel to bring Jews from Ethiopia to Israel, despite Israel’s closed skies due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

A specially chartered flight sponsored by the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem was allowed to bring the Ethiopian Jewish Olim (immigrants) to Israel.

Israel’s airports have been completely closed for a few weeks to prevent the entry of new COVID-19 variants. The special exceptions committee gave permission for the group of Ethiopian immigrants to come from Addis Ababa.

All the newcomers were required to pass COVID-19 tests upon arrival and are now in a two-week-long quarantine. They took the tests in Gondar this week and then loaded onto buses for the 12-hour ride to Addis Ababa, before boarding a plane for the four-hour flight to Israel.

One of the new arrivals was six-year-old Benjamin Tesfahon who is in need of emergency heart surgery. He was quickly taken from the plane to a local hospital.

A total of some 2,000 members of the Falash Mura community will arrive in the Jewish state by February 2021 as part of Operation Tsur Israel.

“This is a difficult time for everyone, but we are so grateful that these Ethiopian immigrants were granted special permission to make the journey home to Israel,” said ICEJ President Dr. Jürgen Bühler.

“They have endured very tough conditions in Gondar and were expecting to come to Israel any day now, only to see their hopes dashed by the recent airport closure. But now their dreams have come true of finally reuniting with their families in the Promised Land. And we also have many Christians worldwide to thank for making this flight possible,” he added.

In November 2015, the Israeli government passed a decision to allow family reunifications for the remaining 9,000 Falash Mura community members waiting for Aliyah to Israel.

By the end of 2017, about 1,300 had been approved and immigrated. In October 2018, the government decided to bring another 1,000 members of the community who already had close relatives living in Israel.

After Operation Tsur Israel, 7,000 will remain to wait for Aliyah.