JERUSALEM (JTA) — The final two charter flights of new immigrants from Ethiopia landed in Israel.
The two airplanes carrying the 450 new Israeli citizens arrived Wednesday at Ben Gurion Airport.
A steady trickle of approximately 200 Ethiopian immigrants per month has been coming to Israel since 2010, when Israel launched Operation Wings of a Dove after checking the aliyah eligibility of an additional 8,000 Ethiopians.
The new immigrants are known as Falash Mura — Ethiopians who claim links to descendants of Jews who converted to Christianity generations ago but now seek to return to Judaism and immigrate to Israel. They have been accepted to Israel under different rules than those governing other immigrants.
In advance of the final airlift, Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky last week turned over the keys to the Jewish school of Gondar to the Ethiopian city’s mayor. The Jewish Agency donated all the school buildings and equipment to the municipality.
However, about 12,000 Falash Mura who were not granted permission to make aliyah remain in Gondar. Many have relatives in Israel. In advance of the flights’ landings, hundreds of Ethiopian Israelis demonstrated Wednesday on behalf of the Falash Mura left behind.
Yesh Atid lawmaker Dov Lipman, in a message on his Facebook page, offered his support to the Falash Mura left behind in Gondar.
“I welcome the new immigrants arriving today. However, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of daughters, sons, mothers, fathers, brothers, and sisters of Ethiopians who are already in Israel who are being left behind. And, we won’t leave them behind,” he wrote.
“I visited Gondar last year and met them. I saw their tears, I heard their cries, and I was inspired by their drive to move to Israel and be reunited with their loved ones. I call on the government and the Jewish Agency to keep all services in Gondar in place until every single relative of Israelis has their appeal heard by the special committee set up by the Interior Committee and commit not to rest until I know that no families remain torn apart.”
Ethiopian Jews also were airlifted to Israel during Operation Moses in 1984 and Operation Solomon in 1992.