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Ethiopian Aliyah Faces New Challenge of Civil War

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Posted on: 
20 Nov 2020
Ethiopian Aliyah Faces New Challenge of Civil War

There are chilling reports of an insurrection in northern Ethiopia over recent days which have given added urgency to Israeli efforts to bring thousands of Ethiopian Jews in the region home to Israel. The International Christian Embassy Jerusalem has committed to assist with this initiative by funding Aliyah flights over coming months, beginning with an ICEJ-sponsored flight of 200 expected to arrive in December. We are monitoring the situation in the Gondar region, where most of the remaining Jews in Ethiopia have been stuck in transit camps for up to two decades, and we are looking to our friends and supporters to help us with this prophetic and humanitarian mission.

On November 4th, militia leaders in the northern province of Tigray launched attacks on Ethiopian military forces in a bid to break away from the central government in Addis Ababa. After two weeks of sustained fighting, the Ethiopian army has made some advances in putting down the uprising, but the fighting has persisted. The clashes have claimed a number of victims and triggered concerns among Israeli officials for the safety of Jews living in the Gondar transit camps some 45 miles away.

Ethiopian Jews in Israel also are reporting that the outbreak of hostilities has caused much stress and fear among their relatives still in Gondar.

One Jewish man residing in the Gondar camp, Girmew Gete, 36, died in the fighting this week as he was working near the border between the provinces of Amhara and Tigray. Gete had been waiting with his family to immigrate to Israel for 24 years, and was hoping to be reunited soon with his 84 year-old grandmother who lives alone in the Israeli town of Kiryat Gat.

Meantime, several rebel rockets struck the Gondar city airport this week. The airport would need to be used for any evacuation flights if Israeli authorities deemed it necessary to carry out an emergency airlift of the Gondar Jewish community anytime soon.

The Israeli government has approved plans for bringing home an initial group of 2,000 Ethiopian Jews over coming months, an operation which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described as an “airlift” when speaking with his Ethiopian counterpart this week about the escalation in Tigray.

Up to 9,000 Jews remain in Ethiopia, living in poor conditions in transit camps for decades awaiting their turn to move to Israel. Three-fourths of them are in Gondar and the rest in Addis Ababa.

In 2015, the Israeli government decided to bring them home, but the process has been slow. So far, some 2,200 Ethiopian Jews have been brought over the past five years, all on Aliyah flights sponsored by the Christian Embassy. This includes 268 on three flights this year, despite Corona-related travel bans.

Aliyah flights for this next group of 2,000 Ethiopian Jews are supposed to start in December and will take several months to complete. The costs per person for bringing them home to Israel is currently higher than normal, but the Israeli government has decided to bring them as soon as possible.

Other urgent concerns facing the Jews in Ethiopia are the widespread malnourishment in the transit camps, the spread of the Coronavirus in the country, and a massive locust plague hitting all of East Africa.

Thus, this latest wave of Ethiopian Aliyah has become an urgent humanitarian mission! The opportunity is here to help bring home several thousand more Ethiopian Jews who are desperate to reach Israel. But we need your help.

Please consider a generous donation to help these very deserving people re-join their families in the Jewish homeland. May the Lord bless you richly as you donate towards this very urgent and worthy cause!

You may also want to watch our documentary “Journey of Dreams” – filmed when an ICEJ team recently visited the transit camps in Ethiopia to see first-hand the difficult conditions in which thousands of Ethiopian Jews are now living. It is very moving to see their determination to reach the Land of Israel, in order to be reunited with their families and the Jewish people. Watch the documentary at: int.icej.org/documentary

We also encourage you to watch a video report on the arrival of over 100 Ethiopian Jews on an ICEJ-sponsored Aliyah flight earlier this year. They were greeted by Aliyah and Absorption Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata, the first Ethiopian-born cabinet minister in Israel’s modern history.