Ethiopian Aliyah

A family of immigrants on the final flight of Operation Doves Wings wave the flag of their new country. Moshik Brin

Since the early 1950s, The Jewish Agency has assisted more than 90,000 Ethiopians with their immigration to Israel.

The decision to appoint emissaries to Ethiopia came from The Jewish Agency management following requests from Jewish community leaders in Ethiopia. In 1953, The Jewish Agency appointed Rabbi Shmuel Be'eri as The Agency's first emissary to Ethiopia.

At the same time, the World Zionist Organization and The Jewish Agency appointed Yona Bogale as responsible for educational activity in the Diaspora. Rabbi Be'eri established the first Hebrew School for Ethiopian Jews in Asmara.  

Between 1955 and 1965, approximately 27 Jewish Ethiopian teens, known as the "Kfar Batya Group," were brought to Israel where they were trained to be emissaries by The Jewish Agency, and returned to their communities as qualified and highly skilled teachers. Meanwhile, The Agency established medical clinics within these communities to serve the Jewish population, many of whom were awaiting approval for Aliyah.


By the end of the 1970s, Jewish immigration from Ethiopia took the form of Aliyah of Rescue. Until 1977, Jews from Ethiopia were permitted to immigrate to the Jewish State until 1977 when the dictator, Mengistu Haile Mariam, came to power.

During the decade that followed, immigration was clandestine and managed by the Government of Israel along with The Jewish Agency. Suffering persecution at the hands of Mengisto's Marxist regime for holding Jewish educational and Zionist activities, many of the Jewish villagers became refugees. The first refugees from the Tigray area walked all the way to Israel by foot with next to no aid.

Understanding the intense need, the Mossad Institute for Intelligence and Special Operations, along with the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) joined with the The Jewish Agency to establish more effective procedures and improved conditions for Aliyah. The IDF and Mossad began to bring Ethiopian Jews to safety in Israel, and The Jewish Agency welcomed and absorbed the refugees, housing them in youth villages and special sites established for this purpose. 


"Operation Moses" aided the arrival of 6,364 Jews from refugee camps in Sudan to Israel, via intermediating countries, by foot, planes, and boats.


Between November 1988 and May 1991, 150,000 Ethiopian Jews moved closer to Addis Ababa, the center for Aliyah activities in Ethiopia.

"Operation Solomon" was an aerial Aliyah maneuver for the rescue of Ethiopian Jewry. In May 1991, 14,000 Ethiopian Jews arrived in Israel aboard IDF, El-Al, and Ethiopian Airlines aircrafts. During the operation, the IDF, The Jewish Agency, the Joint Distribution Committee, and the Mossad joined forces. With aid of American arbitration, the Israeli government reached a settlement with Mengistu and with the rebels, allowing the rescue to take place within 34 hours.


From 1992-1997, the Israeli Government along with The Jewish Agency assisted Ethiopian Jews of the Qwara Province to reach the Jewish State. Since June 2008, The Jewish Agency, at the request of the Government of Israel, has continued to make Aliyah from Ethiopia possible, according to the Law of Return 1970 Amendment of "Zera Israel" from Ethiopia.


By government decision, immigration of "Zera Israel" continues with "Operation Dove's Wings" which commenced on October 29, 2012. This is the peak of the Aliyah process for those eligible for immigration by the Law of Return 1970 Amendment. It is the final wave of Aliyah from Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa; an operation that began in the 1950s and has come full circle thanks to the services of The Jewish Agency.

Looking Forward

From the first days of Ethiopian Aliyah until today, our shlichim in Ethiopia prepared these future Israelis with several months of education in Hebrew, Judaism, and Israeli culture. We arrange for their immigration visas and pay for their transportation to Israel. 

We also provide their first home in Israel: up to two years of simple but comfortable accommodations in one of our 17 Absorption Centers dedicated specifically to the needs of Ethiopian immigrants, where they receive a warm welcome, Hebrew and vocational training for adults, academic enrichment and after-school activities for the children, and social and recreational activities for all. Our centers also provide day activities for the elderly, special services for the disabled, and a “transitions” course to help married couples reduce stress and improve communication as they go through the acclimation process.
Our Yesodot (“Foundations”) program provides a continuum of formal and informal educational programs for Ethiopian children and young adults who live in our Absorption Centers, helping those from preschool through 12th grade close the educational gaps they confront when acculturating to Israeli schools. Among Yesodot's services are:  
• Preparation for first grade: school-readiness in math, reading, and fine motor coordination for small groups of children up to 6 years old.
Water Wings: after-school reinforcement in Hebrew, math and English for ages 6-14
Summer Camps: extension of studies and educational enrichment for ages 4-18
Tutoring for adolescents
Bar/Bat Mitzvah Programs: Jewish studies and a celebration in Jerusalem
My First Library: story hours and book distributions
My Toy Box: guided, cross-cultural activities for children and parents together
Next Steps
The story of mass Ethiopian Aliyah is a moving and dramatic one, and The Jewish Agency has been part of it at every step. The story appeared to close in 2013 when we sponsored our last group flight from Ethiopia and closed our Gondar center. (Eligible olim may still make Aliyah as individuals; 95 arrived in 2015.)
In November 2015, the Israeli government announced its intention to bring a new wave of up to 9,000 Ethiopians on Aliyah by 2020. Immediately, The Jewish Agency prepared to continue the story. We put into place the infrastructure that necessary to conduct pre-Aliyah services in Gondar and comprehensive absorption services in Israel.  As soon as the Government of Israel is ready to proceed, The Jewish Agency will be there, ready to set the wheels into motion.
In October 9, 2016, a first group of 63 new olim from Ethiopia arrived to Israel and were reunited with their families. 

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