Shalom Life | March 28, 2015

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!”

Op-Ed: Lena Dunham’s 'Dog or Jewish Boyfriend' Piece is Thoughtless and Offensive Op-Ed: Lena Dunham’s 'Dog or Jewish Boyfriend' Piece is Thoughtless and Offensive TrendingJames Deen to Play Himself on Showtime's 'Happyish' James Deen to Play Himself on Showtime's 'Happyish' TrendingHarvey Weinstein Takes Home Humanitarian Award, Urges Jews To Kick anti-Semites "in the Ass” Harvey Weinstein Takes Home Humanitarian Award, Urges Jews To Kick anti-Semites "in the Ass” Trending
 

Op-Ed: Obama, not Netanyahu, is Killing the Two-State Solution

March 27, 2015 | By Ben Cohen, JNS.org
Op-Ed: Obama, not Netanyahu, is Killing the Two-State Solution

The U.S. President has never really empathized with the emotions that govern Israeli perceptions of the wider region

Read More

Op-Ed: Lena Dunham’s 'Dog or Jewish Boyfriend' Piece is Thoughtless and Offensive

March 27, 2015 | By Caitlin Marceau
Op-Ed: Lena Dunham’s 'Dog or Jewish Boyfriend' Piece is Thoughtless and Offensive

In her latest literary endeavour, 'Girls' star Dunham tries to come across as funny by comparing her boyfriend to a dog; she doesn't

Read More

James Deen to Play Himself on Showtime's 'Happyish'

March 27, 2015 | By Daniel Koren
James Deen to Play Himself on Showtime's 'Happyish'

The prolific Jewish porn star will appear in a cameo on the new show out on April 26th

Read More

Woman Exposes Herself To Minors At Arizona Bar Mitzvah

March 27, 2015 | By Caitlin Marceau
Woman Exposes Herself To Minors At Arizona Bar Mitzvah

Lindsey Radomski is being charged by police after allegedly exposing herself to, and performing oral sex on, minors at a Bar Mitzvah this past Saturday

Read More

Association Assisting Holocaust Survivors Needs Your Help To Make Their Passover Seder Possible

March 27, 2015 | By Caitlin Marceau
Association Assisting Holocaust Survivors Needs Your Help To Make Their Passover Seder Possible

The group, which holds an annual Passover Seder, is in danger of having to cancel their event due to the lack of funds needed to help the 450+ survivors who, without them, will be celebrating alone this year

Read More

Shortly Before they Died in Brooklyn Fire, the Sassoon Children Recorded This Emotional Song [VIDEO]

March 27, 2015 | By Tali Farkash & Liron Nagler-Cohen
Shortly Before they Died in Brooklyn Fire, the Sassoon Children Recorded This Emotional Song [VIDEO]

Song is their own version of Hasidic singer Yaakov Shwekey's hit "Cry No More"

Read More

Facebook Integrates Israeli App into Messenger

March 26, 2015 | By NoCamels Team
Facebook Integrates Israeli App into Messenger

Social media giant incorporates Magisto, an app that turns photos and videos into a short animated film

Read More

Toronto's Iconic Pancer’s Deli To Reopen

March 26, 2015 | By Caitlin Marceau
Toronto's Iconic Pancer’s Deli To Reopen

The deli, which was sold five years ago and closed earlier this year, is back in Pancer's hands and won't be leaving them any time soon

Read More

More Headlines