Ethiopians Celebrate Anniversary of 1991 Operation Solomon Airlift

Ethiopians from all over Israel converged on Jerusalem on Monday to celebrate the first anniversary of Operation Solomon, the airlift which brought 14,000 Ethiopian Jews to Israel overnight.

Sponsored by the Jewish Agency, the event was more a reunion than an anniversary party. While many onlookers enjoyed the dance and vocal performances onstage at Sacher Park, the real action was in the audience.

Despite the crush of people — most of whom were bused in by the agency — the immigrants seemed to have no trouble finding family and friends.

In traditional Ethiopian fashion, the olim kissed loved ones on the cheek seven times, then sat on the grass and caught up on family news.

The day proved to be a respite from the difficulties immigrants face during their first year in Israel. For one day, at least, there were no ulpan classes, no bureaucracy to contend with.

Muchit Baruch, who arrived in Israel a year ago, lives in an absorption center in Beersheba. Dressed in a white gown with colorful embroidered edges, she said through an interpreter that she was happy to be with her family.

"I am having trouble learning Hebrew, and it is hard to raise a family on the small allowance we receive each month," she said.

The mother of five children, two of whom immigrated several years ago and are now soldiers, she added, "Now that we are all together, everything else will be all right."

Also in good spirits were Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir and Labor Party leader Yitzhak Rabin, both contending for votes in the June 23 elections, who good-naturedly shook hands at the event.

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