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Jews Left Behind in Gondar Province Making Their Way to Ethiopian Capital

The estimated 2,000 Jews in the remote Ethiopian province of Gondar are making their way to the capital of Addis Ababa, where they hope to be allowed to join relatives in Israel, officials of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee reported Wednesday, after a meeting with Israeli Foreign Minister David Levy.

The few hundred who have already made it to the capital are being cared for by the JDC, which was a key player in the recent emergency airlift of more than 14,000 Ethiopian Jews to Israel.

Although most Ethiopian Jews are originally from the northwestern province, almost all had been moved from Gondar to Addis Ababa over the past few years.

During the May 24-25 airlift, code-named “Operation Solomon,” about 350 Jews already in Addis Ababa were also left behind.

JDC officials said they hope that the new Ethiopian leaders who came to power after rebel troops toppled former President Mengistu Haile Mariam last month will allow the old family reunification program to resume.

The Ethiopian airport reopened on Tuesday, “which gives hope to expediting” this matter, said Amir Shaviv, the JDC spokesman.

But whether the thousands of Jewish converts to Christianity will be allowed to immigrate to Israel is something the Israeli government must still decide.

Meanwhile, the JDC medical clinic in Addis Ababa has resumed functioning, and there are plans to establish it as a regional treatment center for tuberculosis, Shaviv said.

The plans, discussed during the meeting Wednesday with Foreign Minister Levy, are part of JDC’s general goal of establishing various nonsectarian aid programs in Ethiopia, said Michael Schneider, JDC executive vice president.

TRIBUTE TO THOSE INVOLVED IN AIRLIFT

Schneider and the others meeting with Levy, including Heinz Eppler, JDC board chairman, and board member Elaine Winik, expressed their gratitude to Levy for the role the Israeli Foreign Ministry played in the secret airlift.

Levy, echoing the sentiments many have expressed over the past two weeks, thanked the JDC for its role both recently and over the past 10 years in aiding the Jewish community of Ethiopia, officials said.

On Tuesday evening, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations hosted a reception honoring several other individuals involved with the Ethiopian airlift.

They included Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.), who mobilized congressional support for Ethiopian Jews; former Sen. Rudy Boschwitz (R-Minn.), who served as President Bush’s special envoy to Ethiopia; Uri Lubrani, former Israeli ambassador to Ethiopia; and Schneider of JDC.

The group also played tribute to former Rep. Mickey Leland (D-Texas), who died in an airplane crash during a mission to Ethiopia with Jewish officials.

Levy, who arrived in New York on Tuesday, was to meet in Washington with Secretary of State James Baker and to address the Anti-Defamation League in New York on Thursday.

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