By: Hirsch Neustein and Steven Paletz
Members of National Young Leadership Cabinet (NYLC)
A few weeks ago, we were fortunate to represent JEWISHcolorado on an inspiring and meaningful trip to accompany over 200 olim from Ethiopia on their flight to Israel. Most of the olim on our flight had been waiting between 5-10 years to join their families in the land of Israel. It was a powerful and moving experience to be a part of their journey.
During our four-day mission, we visited Gondar, Ethiopia, the home province of Ethiopian Jews for thousands of years. We were able to join the community for Shachrit (morning prayers), visit the Jewish community center, and learn about the process olim go through to ultimately realize their dream of moving to Israel. There are currently about 12,000 Ethiopian Jews waiting for their opportunity to make Aliyah to Israel.
Following our visit to Gondar we returned to Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia to learn more about the history of the Ethiopian Jewish community and prepare to greet the Olim upon their arrival to the airport for their Aliyah flight to Israel. The boarding gate at the airport was an emotional experience for both the Olim and the lay and professional leadership accompanying the flight.
As we entered Israeli airspace, Olim sang and held up Israeli flags and the environment on the plane was exciting and filled with tears of joy. We were welcomed upon our arrival by the Minister of Aliyah and Absorption, Pnina Tameno Shete, herself an Ethiopian Oleh as a young child.
We joined together with the Olim as we danced and sang at the exit of the plane. It was a truly joyous way to celebrate the continuation of Kibutz Galyot (the ingathering of exiles) in the land of Israel. The Olim will be welcomed into absorption centers throughout Israel, where they will learn Hebrew and be provided with food, healthcare, and job training until they are able to make it on their own in Israel.
It was truly a privilege and a life-changing experience to be a part of this four-day mission. There is much work ahead as the Jewish Federation of North America embarks on a $9 Million fundraising campaign to continue to provide financial resources to the Olim, including funding future flights and extensive resettlement costs which include rent assistance, job training programs, supplemental education programs and other social support programs. We hope you will join us in supporting this important effort to complete the Ethiopian Aliyah for those that have been waiting for many years. It is a great way to kick off the new year by supporting new beginnings for Ethiopian Jewry.