The 450 olim who landed on Israeli soil Wednesday are the swan song of the official Israeli effort to bring Ethiopian Jews to Israel.
Operation Dove's Wings, the most recent project of that effort, started three years ago and has brought 7,000 Falashmura to Israel. It ended Wednesday with two flights.
At the arrivals hall at Ben Gurion International airport, family members and friends who came to Israel with the Jewish Agency welcomed their relatives with enthusiasm.
It was an emotional time for many families: A soldier, who was waiting for his sister was on the brink of tears. "I haven't seen my sister in eight years," he said. "I don't even remember what she looks like."
Final operation for Ethiopian Jews (Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg)
Another man was also waiting for his sister, who he has not seen in 12 years. As they met, they embraced. "We'll all be together for the new year," he said.
Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky welcomed the olim as they stepped off the plane. "After 2,800 years in the Diaspora, you are home," he said, "welcome." Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, the president of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, also spoke. "I'm moved and proud to be part of Ethiopian Jews' immigration to the land of Israel," he said.
Israel has been working to bring Ethiopian Jews to Israel since the mid-1980s, when 8,000 olim immigrated to Israel as part of Operation Moshe.
In the 1990s, Operation Solomon brought some 14,400 Ethiopian Jews to Israel. Now, with the conclusion of Operation Dove's Wings, official airlifts for Ethiopian Jews are over.
The Jewish Agency's offices in Gondar have been closed, and any request to make aliyah to Israel will be examined on a case-to-case basis, as it is everywhere else in the world. About 6,000 Ethiopian Jews remain in Ethiopia.
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