Did you know that there are Jews in Ethiopia? I did not know that until the first time Israel flew black Ethiopian Jews from Ethiopia to Israel many years ago in approximately 1984 . In that year, Operation Moses airlifted 15,000 Jews who had fled to refugee camps in Sudan to escape starvation and took them to Israel. Then in 1991, Operation Solomon, flew 20,000 Ethiopian Jews from Ethiopia to Israel. There are still a few thousand Jews left in Ethiopia and they all want to return to their biblical homeland.
Today I watched a television fund-raising program with Rabbi Eckstein on this very issue. In the process of watching I learned more of these dear people and their desperate situation in Ethiopia.
As I watched I could not stop sobbing with a deep groaning for these people who for so long have been "lost" in Ethiopia. I literally could not stop even if I wanted to. The tears simply flowed.
The Ethiopian Jews have fled to the northern reaches of Ethiopia to escape persecution and death. In the north they live desperate lives of poverty and disease but they continue to practice their Jewish faith. These people are said to be the descendants of the lost tribe of Dan and though many have been returned to their biblical homeland, many others remain behind in Ethiopia.
I was deeply moved by the scenes of these Jews practicing their faith after generations of exile and their deeply held hope of getting home to Israel. Scenes of rescued Jews, dropping to the tarmac and kissing the ground once they landed was also very moving. The sadness and grief I shared over the heart wrenching goodbye scenes between friends and family members was very real. Not everyone gets to go to Israel from one family at the same time due to the lack of funds.
Many have waited a decade to be able to go to Israel. In that time, untold numbers of people have died due to sickness and disease aided by poverty. Once they say goodbye to their loved ones, they do not know when or if, they will ever see one another again. This kind of knowledge is simply overwhelming. Not just to me but more so to the people who must experience it.
The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ) is working hard to raise funds for the repatriation of Ethiopian Jews to Israel. If you can help another Ethiopian Jew to return to Israel, to their biblical homeland, please do so. You can do so here and when you do, I am sure that God our Father sees you and is well pleased.
I leave you now with a story of one young man's return to his biblical homeland and his experiences in Israel. This excerpt comes from the IFCJ's website.
Naga: Returning from Exile
Naga, 23, came to Israel with his parents from Gondar, Ethiopia. Despite the fact that there were few Jews in Gondar, his parents always stressed the importance of their faith. “My grandfather used to tell us stories about how our people were exiled from the land of our ancestors and that one day we would return,” he says.
In Ethiopia, Naga and his family faced much anti-Semitism. “People called us ‘strangers’ and ‘exiles’, and looked down upon us,” he says. “My father remembers during his childhood that people refused to drink from the same cup as him because he was Jewish.”
Because of this persecution, Naga says that Ethiopia never felt like home. He always dreamed of living in Israel – and, thanks to your support of On Wings of Eagles, that dream came true.
On Wings of Eagles not only funded aliyah (immigration to Israel) for Naga and his parents, it provided them with klitah (resettlement) assistance that helped them become full, productive citizens in their new home. Upon arrival, Naga and his parents were brought to live in an absorption center with other Ethiopian families. There are social activities as well as counselors who teach them how to use modern technology and integrate into Israeli society.
Naga is deeply grateful to The Fellowship’s On Wings of Eagles partners. “Coming back to Israel is something people have worked for their entire lives, and have even died for,“ he says. “I know that your donors are working hard so that every Jewish person can come home, and I am so grateful.”
There are still many Jews in Ethiopia and around the world like Naga who dream of one day coming to their biblical homeland, where they are free to worship as Jews. Please give to On Wings of Eagles today – and help that dream come true!