After the government carries out its pledge to reunite hundreds of families split between Ethiopia and Israel, hundreds of Africans have arrived in Tel Aviv airport.
Although the Arriving Ethiopian families are of Jewish descent and many are practising Jews, Israel does not consider them Jewish under religious law. Despite those formalities, the refugees were warmly welcomed in Israel.
A large delegation of Israeli officials welcomed the group, and Pnina Tamano-Shata, the country’s first Ethiopian-born Cabinet minister, travelled to Ethiopia to join them on the flight.
In addition, the Ethiopians were permitted to enter Israel under a family-unification program that requires special government approval.
Some 300 people landed on the Ethiopian Airlines flight, with many waving flags or stopping to kiss the ground as they streamed off the aircraft onto a red carpet.
“My wife Sara and myself were standing there with tears in our eyes,” PM Benjamin Netanyahu said at a welcoming ceremony. “This is the essence of our Jewish story, the essence of the Zionist story.”
The Struggle for Ethiopian Aliyah, an activist group promoting family unification, estimates some 7,000 Ethiopian Jews remain behind in Ethiopia, some of whom have been waiting for years to join their families.
Once again, the government led by Netanyahu has decided to place quotas on the immigration of Jews from Ethiopia. “The government is celebrating a few hundred immigrants from Ethiopia, while thousands were supposed to be here and are still left behind while their fate is in question,” the Ethiopian Aliyah activist said.