ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has told his Ethiopian counterpart that his country has the intention to “immediately” bring over some 2,000 Ethiopian Jews. The announcement came Friday after a phone call with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.
Netanyahu’s office said the decision comes “out of his commitment to the continued aliyah of Jews to Israel.”
Some 13,000 Ethiopian Jews are in the capital, Addis Ababa, and in Gondar, most of them waiting to be taken to Israel, which they call home. Most live in dire conditions and have threatened to stage a hunger strike if they’re not allowed to travel to their “homeland.” Many say they have family members who have settled in Israel.
“Some 250 people have left for Israel within the past year until COVID-19 came. Now the travel has stopped, but Israeli officials are conducting interviews online,” Nigusie Alemu Eyasu, program director for the Ethiopian Jews Community, told The Associated Press.
Activists say Israel’s government in 2015 pledged to bring the remaining Ethiopian Jews to Israel. In 1991 while Ethiopia was in the midst of civil war, Israel carried out the dramatic Operation Solomon, airlifting out some 14,500 Ethiopian Jews in less than two days.
Ethiopian Jews are often referred to in Ethiopia as “Falashas,” a derogatory word which translates into “strangers” or “migrants.”