First Known Ethiopian Jews to Move to Israel with ‘Official’ Permission Since 2017

Ethiopian Israelis reunite with their friends and family at Ben Gurion International Airport. (Courtesy)

The first known Ethiopian Jews to move to Israel with “official” permission since 2017 will shortly arrive in the country. After months of lobbying the government, the mother and siblings of Sintayehu Shaparou, the Ethiopian who competed in Israel’s 2018 Chidon HaTanach (International Bible) contest, are being granted residency status.

“We are finally seeing progress,” said A.Y. Katsof, director of The Heart of Israel, who raised $10,000 for flights and early resettlement costs of the family in Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu in northern Israel.

Sintayehu Shaparou’s father and half-siblings immigrated to Israel 17 years ago while Shaparou, his mother, and other siblings – who are all members of Ethiopia’s Falash Mura community – awaited approval for Aliyah in Ethiopia, though the approval never came.

Sintayehu Shaparou was granted residency by the Interior Ministry in April 2018 after it became public that Sintayehu was forced to deposit money with immigration and border control officials as a guarantee that he would leave the country following the Bible contest.

The government decided in 2015 to bring the remaining members of the Falash Mura community to Israel. However, although the government brought 1,300 of approximately 8.000 remaining Jews in Ethiopia in 2017, it has yet to approve a budget for any further immigration.

As a result of famine caused by a civil war, some 8,000 Ethiopian Jews were rescued from Sudan via Brussels in a secret Israeli mission called “Operation Moses” between November 21, 1984 to January 5, 1985. Over those seven weeks, more than 30 flights brought some 200 Ethiopian Jews at a time to Tel Aviv’s Ben-Gurion Airport.

This emergency exodus was followed in May 1991 by “Operation Solomon,” in which 14,325 Ethiopian Jews were brought to Israel in only 36 hours.

The Ethiopian community in Israel has been holding weekly peaceful demonstrations outside the Jerusalem home of Interior Minister and Knesset Member Aryeh Deri, begging the minister to help bring these Ethiopians to Israel. The heads of the community have also threatened to carry out a hunger strike.

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