Shalom Life | July 27, 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!”

Study: Eminem and Kanye West Use Wider Vocabulary than Bob Dylan Study: Eminem and Kanye West Use Wider Vocabulary than Bob Dylan TrendingAmy Schumer and Meryl Streep to star in a film together? Amy Schumer and Meryl Streep to star in a film together? TrendingThe Five Worst Adam Sandler Movies The Five Worst Adam Sandler Movies Trending
 

Romania Passes Legislation Banning Holocaust Denial

July 27, 2015 | By B. Shane Morganstein
Romania Passes Legislation Banning Holocaust Denial

Holocaust deniers can now face up to 3 years in prison for denying the Holocaust or promoting fascism

Read More

Google removes Hamas app from Android store

July 27, 2015 | By JNS.org
Google removes Hamas app from Android store

The app was created by the Palestinian terrorist organization to improve its connection with its followers

Read More

Pro-Palestinian Activists Call Holocaust Survivor a 'Nazi'

July 27, 2015 | By B. Shane Morganstein
Pro-Palestinian Activists Call Holocaust Survivor a 'Nazi'

The English Holocaust survivor was accosted by pro-Palestinian activists after setting up a pro-Israel booth at a trade union festival

Read More

Study: Diaspora Jews increasingly more critical of Israel

July 27, 2015 | By B. Shane Morganstein
Study: Diaspora Jews increasingly more critical of Israel

Jewish People Policy Institute publishes new study just a year after Israel's most recent conflict with Hamas

Read More

Meet the Israeli-born Filipina Fighting to Save Lives in the IDF

July 27, 2015 | By Adva Cohen
Meet the Israeli-born Filipina Fighting to Save Lives in the IDF

Two years after her grandmother was rescued from the rubble in the Philippines, Joanna Chris Afron has come full circle - becoming a combat soldier in the same unit that saved her grandmother

Read More

Newspaper Uses Nazi Soldier for Cremation Ad

July 27, 2015 | By B. Shane Morganstein
Newspaper Uses Nazi Soldier for Cremation Ad

Jefferson City news Tribune apologizes for "Cremation with Integrity" ad featuring a young Nazi

Read More

Study: Eminem and Kanye West Use Wider Vocabulary than Bob Dylan

July 27, 2015 | By B. Shane Morganstein
Study: Eminem and Kanye West Use Wider Vocabulary than Bob Dylan

The rock-god has been beaten by the two rappers in a new study examining the range of vocabulary used by musical artists

Read More

Shaw Festival Review: Pygmalian

July 24, 2015 | By Hermine Steinberg
Shaw Festival Review: Pygmalian

Pygmalion is not only timely, but in the hands of Peter Hinton, is a masterpiece in social commentary.

Read More

More Headlines