Last Ethiopian Jews in Gondar start to arrive in Israel

An Ethiopian Jewish child in Israel (Photo: AP)

An Ethiopian Jewish child in Israel (Photo: AP)

A group of Ethiopian Jews have arrived in Israel nearly 30 years after the first operation to bring members of the community to the Jewish state.

The arrival of 240 members of the Falash Mura group marks what is set to be the final chapter in the story of the Ethiopian Jewish community.

More than 120,000 Ethiopian Jews now live in Israel, but around 2,000 are still believed to be in the African country. The first mission to bring them to Israel took place in secret in the early 1980s, and by January 1985 Israel had airlifted some 8,000 people from the impoverished, famine-stricken African country.

In 1991 another 15,000 were airlifted to Israel in Operation Solomon.

The group that arrived in Israel in the first stage of Operation Dove's Wings this week were Falash Mura – Ethiopians who say their Jewish ancestors were forced to convert to Christianity.

Rabbis in Israel have ruled that they are of Jewish descent and the initial arrangement with the government has allowed them to enter Israel on condition that they re-convert to Judaism, after which they will receive citizenship.

The aim is that by March 2014 Operation Dove's Wings will be complete, with all the members of the community, who are currently waiting in Gondar, able to move to Israel.

The plan is to have monthly flights with up to 200 people brought over each time. The community will be placed in an absorption village in southern Israel that is funded by both the Jewish Agency and the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption.

Last updated: 10:09am, October 30 2012