ICEJ Brings 300 Ethiopian Jews to Israel Despite Airport ClosurePublished on: 12.2.2021
By: David R. Parsons, ICEJ Vice President and Senior Spokesman
Although Ben-Gurion Airport is currently shut down for the first time since Israel’s founding in 1948, a specially chartered flight sponsored by the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem was allowed to bring 302 Ethiopian Jewish immigrants home to Israel early Friday morning in the latest phase of the ‘Operation Rock of Israel’ airlift. This was the ICEJ’s largest fully chartered Aliyah flight in over two decades, and it came under exceptional circumstances.
Israel’s main airport has been completely closed for weeks to prevent the entry of a new variant of the coronavirus which might undermine the government’s ambitious mass vaccination efforts. However, a special exceptions committee gave permission this week for the group of Ethiopian immigrants to come from Addis Ababa and land at Ben-Gurion.
All the Ethiopian newcomers were required to first pass corona tests and will now quarantine for two weeks in Israel. 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 a six year-old boy in need of emergency heart surgery. He was quickly taken from the plane to a Tel Aviv hospital. (Please be praying for little Benjamin.)
The ICEJ-chartered flight is part of an Israeli emergency airlift launched in early December which aims to bring 2,000 Ethiopian Jews from a country battered by drought, locust swarms, economic hardship, coronavirus, and tribal warfare. The Christian Embassy has now sponsored flights for over 500 of these newest Ethiopian arrivals coming as part of the ‘Rock of Israel’ operation.
“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 last night”, 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.”
The Israeli cabinet decided in 2015 to bring home the last remnant of Ethiopian Jewry, who have been living in poor conditions in transit camps in Gondar and Addis Ababa, some waiting there for up to 20 years to make Aliyah. The Christian Embassy has now sponsored Aliyah flights for over 2,700 Ethiopian Jews who have arrived in Israel since then, but the immigration process has been slow and the challenges to those left behind are mounting.
Israeli authorities have responded with the current airlift of 2,000 immigrants. There are still approximately 7,500 members of the Jewish community remaining in Ethiopia, and Aliyah Minister Tamano-Shata, together with Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog, are spearheading the effort to bring all those eligible for entry to Israel over the next couple years, and finally close down the transit camps.