Shalom Life | November 24, 2014

Mission Participants Witness Ethiopian Jews Completing the Journey

Their dreams come true as they start new lives in Israel

By: Jessica Pallay

Published: February 17th, 2012 in Culture » Society » News

Mission Participants Witness Ethiopian Jews Completing the Journey

A short plane ride between Ethiopia and Israel became the journey of a lifetime earlier this month, as more than 80 Ethiopian Jews made aliyah to Israel during The Jewish Federations of North America’s dramatic “Completing the Journey” mission.

The mission, which took place Jan. 29 to Feb. 2, enabled 60 participants from 15 communities to witness a part of the conclusion of more than three decades of Ethiopian-Jewish aliyah, which began in the 1980s and 1990s with Operations Moses and Solomon. The mission was part of an effort to complete the rescue of the remaining ancient Ethiopian Jewish community.

At the behest of the Government of Israel, Jewish Federations are spearheading the effort to raise $5.5 million on behalf of the Jewish Agency for Israel to take care of the remaining approximately 6,000 “Falas Mura” community members in Gondar and facilitate their aliyah to Israel.

“As Jews, we have a responsibility to repair the world – Tikkun Olam. Twenty years after Operation Solomon, the second of the mass airlifts of Ethiopian Jews to Israel, we are in the final stages of this modern-day exodus,” said Jeffrey Distenfeld of Washington, D.C., who chaired the mission with his wife Yvonne. “In a four-hour plane ride, we took them forward in time two thousand years.”

During their two days in Northern Ethiopia, mission participants visited schools, clinics and community centers run by Jewish Federation partner agencies, the Jewish Agency and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC). The group met with Ethiopian Jews in their Gondar homes, attended synagogue and learned about the life that so many had created to sustain their Jewish identity while in Ethiopia.

John Ruskay, executive vice president and CEO of UJA Federation of New York, first traveled to Ethiopia to see the Falas Mura in 2003, and returned again during this “Completing the Journey” mission. “In a synagogue in Gondar, we joined hundreds adorned in tallitim and tefillin for morning prayers that concluded with ‘Am Yisrael Chai’ and ‘Od Avinu Chai’ sung with a poignancy and passion that none of us will soon forget,” he said.

On their final day in Ethiopia, the mission traveled with the Falas Mura as they prepared for aliyah, then accompanied them on a flight to Israel, and stood by as they took the final steps in their momentous journey. Natan Sharansky, chairman of the Jewish Agency, greeted the group at the Jewish Agency absorption center in Kiryat Gat.

“It was such a moving experience to watch the sun set over the Israeli Embassy in Addis Ababa and see the Olim families walk down the hill to the transit center, carrying all of their possessions to board the buses to the airport,” said Yvonne Distenfeld. “The symbolism of the sun setting, just as they were leaving their lives in Ethiopia behind to realize their lifelong dream of going to Jerusalem, was reminiscent of the exodus from Egypt. It was truly stunning.”

Avital Ingber, chief development officer of the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, also journeyed alongside the Ethiopian Jews during the mission. “On the Completing the Journey Mission, the journey is really just beginning for these Ethiopians,” she said. “Life may be difficult when they arrive in Israel, but for today, it is a dream. A true miracle!”

Billy Joel Overtakes Elton John With Most Concerts at Madison Square Gardens Billy Joel Overtakes Elton John With Most Concerts at Madison Square Gardens TrendingDrake Is Launching an OVO Store… Most Likely in Toronto	Drake Is Launching an OVO Store… Most Likely in Toronto TrendingBette Midler Discuss Growing Up Jewish in Hawaii Bette Midler Discuss Growing Up Jewish in Hawaii Trending
 

The Essential Hanukkah Gift Guide 2014: Maccabee on the Mantel [GIVEAWAY]

November 24, 2014 | By Daniel Koren
The Essential Hanukkah Gift Guide 2014: Maccabee on the Mantel [GIVEAWAY]

Our second annual Hanukkah Gift Guide is underway! 8 crazy nights of great gift ideas and giveaways, starting with the ultra-popular plush doll

Read More

Israeli PhD Student Wins 2nd Place in Photo Competition With Extrapolated Image of Van Gogh's "Starry Night"

November 24, 2014 | By NoCamels Team
Israeli PhD Student Wins 2nd Place in Photo Competition With Extrapolated Image of Van Gogh's "Starry Night"

Using an algorithm called PatchMatch that analyzes pattern and style mathematics, Yarin Gal expanded the image to envision how van Gogh pictured the iconic painting

Read More

Chairman of Christians United for Israel: Obama anti-Semitic

November 24, 2014 | By Daniel Koren
Chairman of Christians United for Israel: Obama anti-Semitic

While speaking at an event Sunday, John Hagee said the U.S. President is one of the most anti-Jewish Presidents in American history

Read More

Miss America Thanks Russians Jews For Their Support

November 24, 2014 | By Daniel Koren
Miss America Thanks Russians Jews For Their Support

Kira Kazantsev, the newly-minted Miss America, declares that while she's not Jewish herself, she's appreciative to the community

Read More

Mila Kunis and James Franco Share Hot Kiss in New Trailer [VIDEO]

November 24, 2014 | By Ashley Baylen
Mila Kunis and James Franco Share Hot Kiss in New Trailer [VIDEO]

The 'Oz: The Great and Powerful' stars reunite in 'The Color of Time'

Read More

Billy Joel Overtakes Elton John With Most Concerts at Madison Square Gardens

November 24, 2014 | By Ashley Baylen
Billy Joel Overtakes Elton John With Most Concerts at Madison Square Gardens

The Piano Man sets record, becomes the musician to perform the most shows at New York's legendary venue.

Read More

Drake Is Launching an OVO Store… Most Likely in Toronto

November 24, 2014 | By Ashley Baylen
Drake Is Launching an OVO Store… Most Likely in Toronto

Just in time for the holiday season, Drizzly is opening his first physical OVO store.

Read More

James Franco's Most Narcissistic Project Yet: A Selfie Calender

November 24, 2014 | By Sara Torvik
James Franco's Most Narcissistic Project Yet: A Selfie Calender

Franco has teamed up with Paper Mag as part of their #BreakTheInternet issue.

Read More

More Headlines