All eligible Ethiopian Jews now residing in the Jewish Agency camp of Gondar will be flown to Israel by Rosh Hashanah next year (Sept. 4) and the camp will be closed, a Jewish Agency representative said on Friday.
These immigrants, termed Falash Mura, are descended from Jews who converted to Christianity under pressure from missionaries during the 19th and 20th centuries, and in recent years have returned to Judaism.
A plane carrying 238 Ethiopian Jews from Gondar is scheduled to arrive at Ben-Gurion International Airport on Monday, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to greet the new immigrants at the airport.
Asher Sium, head of the Jewish Agency delegation to Ethiopia and the person responsible for the project, told Israel Hayom on Friday, "From the day the government decided to carry out this operation, in November 2010, 4,550 eligible Jews [from Ethiopia] have immigrated to Israel. There are now 1,800 remaining eligible Jews there who are receiving guidance and stipends from the Jewish Agency to help them immigrate. This project, which began three years ago, will be completed by the end of the year, and our goal besides bringing them to Israel is to prepare them for life in Israel as well."
Israeli volunteers working with the Jewish Agency are teaching the Jews in Gondar the Hebrew language and what life is like in Israel.
"I hope we have a nice flight and that I will succeed in my studies after I immigrate to Israel," said 19-year-old Tavachu, who is set to arrive on Monday. Gatechu, an eager 17-year-old, practiced his Hebrew and said, "I will have a good life in Israel. I want to be a pilot and help my family."
Neta Sagui, 22, an Israeli who volunteered to spend three months in the Gondar camp helping the Ethiopian Jews, said she was enjoying every moment there. "They are eager to go to Israel because of their Zionist views. There are wonderful people here. The thing that most inspired me was when I taught them Hatikvah [Israel's national anthem]," she said.
Some 500 Ethiopian students in grades one through seven are being educated in a Jewish Agency-sponsored school in the camp. An Israeli flag and Star of David stand at the entrance to the school.
Gazhai Derba, 18, is waiting for confirmation of his eligibility to immigrate to Israel. While he waits, he observes the children who have been approved by the agency and says in a well-practiced Hebrew, "My dream is to immigrate to Israel. It's the land of our forefathers. I believe that Jerusalem is completely painted in gold. But I still haven't been approved for immigration because my grandmother is not able to relate the history of my family's previous generations."
Speaking at a cabinet meeting on July 8, Netanyahu said, "Aliyah [immigration] to Israel from every place in the world is one of this government's main objectives." He also set April 1, 2014, as the deadline for Israel to complete the aliyah process of the last 2,200 Jews in Gondar.