It was a bright warm sunny day as the large Airbus, emblazoned with the large red letters ETHIOPIA pulled up on the tarmac.
Out streamed 316 passengers … some sporting their “Sunday” best, others markedly more modest or even quite poor looking … but almost all of them smiling, laughing, waving.
Some were even crying … knelt down and kissed the ground … or the long red carpet laid out for them.
Yes, a red carpet arrival for 316 Ethiopians at a place none of them had ever been before … but had prayed and struggled for decades to reach.
Not Europe or Britain or the US or Canada.
This was Israel last Thursday: the Ethiopian-born immigrants landing in their new home … welcomed despite Israel being right in the midst of the Covid pandemic!
What other country anywhere in the world is right now welcoming planeloads of immigrants? Arriving from Africa. Paying for their flights, providing them housing, language training, education, job training, absorption support. During Covid!
And on hand to greet the new arrivals: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyah and other community leaders, including an Israeli Cabinet Minister of Ethiopian descent.
As I watched this story on Vancouver’s Joy-TV nightly Israel newscast, I was amazed!
The 316 Ethiopians were “olim” (immigrants) from villages in a remote region of northwest Africa, who trace Jewish roots dating back 2,500 years.
Another 120 arrived in Tel Aviv Friday and 1,500 more are scheduled to be flown to Israel by the end of January.
New lives established in an ancient land, a happy story in the midst of a pandemic that has produced so many sad stories worldwide of sickness and death.
And work is under way to eventually welcome any of the remaining 7,000 Ethiopian “Falashas”, as they are known, who also want to emigrate to Israel.
Joining 120,000 Ethiopian Jews who are already Israeli citizens.
A report in Deutsche Weld newspaper last week outlined the Ethiopians’ exodus and the terrible conditions the Falashas have endured over time: https://www.dw.com/en/israel-ethiopian-immigrants-get-warm-welcome/a-55810124
” Little is known about their origins, but it is widely believed they lead back to the biblical King Solomon. Forced to convert to Christianity in the 18th and 19th centuries, they adhered to their Jewish rites and later returned to Judaism,” the paper reported.
The arrivals tell a story of redemption and deliverance, perfect for this time of the year. Especially meaningful in view of all we’ve been through in 2020.
Think of the emotions felt by these people airlifted out of poverty, isolation and discrimination with a 3,500 km flight to a new land.
Just the photos of last week’s event lifted my Covid-stressed spirit: https://www.ctvnews.ca/world/hundreds-of-ethiopian-immigrants-get-warm-welcome-in-israel-1.5215091.
I find it interesting that CTV covered this story, as did several other media worldwide, but unless this news junkie missed it, I did NOT see it reported on BBC World, Al Jazeera, CBC National or CBC Newsworld.
Why am I not surprised!
Glad I could blog it … a brief respite from Covid coverage, in time for Hanukkah, the Jewish eight-day holiday, which begins tonight (Thursday).
To my Jewish readers … and everyone, including the Ethiopian immigrants newly arrived in the Holy Land … a Happy Hanukkah.
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