The immigrants arrived at Ben-Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv aboard two chartered flights on Wednesday, marking the last of Operation Dove’s Wings which began 3000 years ago. The government is terming it the end of mass Aliya from the African country. The operation was launched to bring back thousands of members of the Falash Mura and descendants of Jews who had been forced to convert to Christianity.
The immigrants are now eligible for Israeli citizenship since according to the Law of Return, Jews from the Diaspora can live in the Jewish state. However, some of the immigrants may be required before they can benefit from the citizenship.
The head of the Jewish Agency responsible for the integration of Ethiopian Jews in Israel who accompanied the group on their trip back to Israel termed the mass immigration a “moving, historic moment”. Other senior officials and journalists gave the group a warm welcome on arrival at the airport. Scores of excited relatives who had arrived in Israel earlier were also present at the airport to welcome their loved ones whom they had not seen for almost 10 years. One soldier was extremely excited to see his sister after eight years.
Speaking at the airport ceremony, the Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky said “the state of Israel completed the immigration process of the oldest Jewish community amongst the Jewish people.” Immigrant Absorption Minister, Sofa Landver, added that the government would “do everything in its power to resettle these new immigrants in the best way possible.”
The first group of 92,000 Jewish immigrants arrived in Ethiopia in 1948. The community which is referred to as Beta Israel has lived in northern and north-western Ethiopia where they were discovered in the 19th century by other Jews in Europe.
Israel has been debating the status of the Falash Mura for several years. In 1984 and 1985 about 8000 people were airlifted back to Israel in a campaign termed Operation Mozes and 14,000 others in 1991 in Operation Solomon.