Truth About Israel: Ethiopia

Truth About Israel

An AZM Educational Campaign

"Go ahead, look it up. Thousands of our families were dying from civil war and famine. Then Israel came and airlifted entire villages to safety." -- Milen, age 27, Ethiopia


Ethiopian Jewish history is thousands of years old. In spite of their centuries-long isolation from mainstream Judaism, the black-skinned Jews of Ethiopia continued to identify themselves as Beta Israel (House of Israel). Yearning to return to Jerusalem, their ancient homeland, remains central to their faith.

In 1974, the emperor of Ethiopia was overthrown by a military coup. Under military rule, the Ethiopians were subject to regional wars, terrible droughts and devastating famines. By 1985, Ethiopia was one of the poorest countries in the world.

Thousands of men, women and children began a risky journey from their villages in Northern Ethiopia to Sudan, sustained by their hope and determination to get to Israel. Once they reached the refugee camps in Sudan, representatives of the Jewish Agency of Israel offered assistance, money and medical care.

In the spring of 1991, in just over thirty-six hours, 14,324 Ethiopians were airlifted aboard thirty-four El-Al jets in a memorable and dramatic exodus of biblical proportions, known as Operation Solomon.

The Israeli government continues to advocate, both publicly and privately, for the reunification of remaining Ethiopians with their relatives in Israel.

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