After years of waiting at camps in Gondar and Addis Ababa, 82 Ethiopian Jews of the Falash Mura community will make Aliyah to Israel on Monday evening and finally be reunited with their families.
The Falash Mura are members of the Beta Israel community in Ethiopia who converted under pressure to Christianity in the 19th and 20th centuries. They have since reverted back to Judaism, but they are not eligible to make Aliyah under the Israeli Law of Return.
In November 2015, after ceaseless pressure from Ethiopian Jews who have immigrated to Israel and left behind family members, the Israeli government approved the immigration of some 9,000 Falash Mura. Under the decision, only first-degree family members, mostly parents and siblings, were allowed to immigrate to Israel.
About two years ago, a group of 1,300 Falash Mura arrived in Israel and an additional 82 are expected to arrive on Monday on a flight funded in part by the Jewish Agency.
But the joy of being reunited with their families will be mixed with sadness for some.
Zauditu Tanasa, 26, made Aliyah to Israel alone about eight years ago. Today, she is married and a mother of two—Eden, 6, and Daniel, 2—and living in Kiryat Gat. Zauditu's mother Anakiya, 50, and four siblings—aged 23, 20, 17 and 14—were left in Ethiopia.
Sadly, Anakiya, who was diagnosed with a serious illness, passed away a few days ago, before she could arrive in Israel and be reunited with her elderly parents, her nine siblings, her daughter Zauditu, and her two grandchildren.
After Anakiya's passing, her four children who were left in Ethiopia lost their eligibility to make Aliyah to Israel. But the Interior Ministry has decided to make an exception and approve the Aliyah of Zauditu's four siblings.
"I can't stop crying," said Zauditu. "My mother will not get to see her two grandchildren who were born here in Israel."
"All of these years I've waited for her to follow me and make Aliyah," she said. "Three years ago, I went to visit Ethiopia, and that was the last time I saw her alive. Since then, we've spoken on the phone, I sent her photos of the grandchildren, but she couldn't hold on. A few days before she passed away, I managed to talk to her on the phone. My children were excitedly waiting to meet their grandmother here in Israel, but it won't happen now."