Gondar school closure marks end of Ethiopian aliya

Jewish Agency head Sharansky gives school keys to local mayor; final immigrant flight set for next week

By JTA and TIMES OF ISRAEL STAFF August 20, 2013

Young boys from the Falash Mura community in a computer class in Gondar, Ethiopia last year. (Photo credit: Moshe Shai/FLASH90)
Young boys from the Falash Mura community in a computer class in Gondar, Ethiopia last year. (Photo credit: Moshe Shai/FLASH90)

In a move signaling the end of organized Ethiopian immigration to Israel, Jewish Agency
Chairman Natan Sharansky turned over the keys to the Jewish school of Gondar to the
Ethiopian city’s mayor.

Monday’s handover ceremony of the school, which was funded and maintained by the Jewish
Agency, came as the final flight of Ethiopian immigrants prepared to leave for Israel.

Some 2,500 Ethiopian children awaiting immigration to Israel studied in the school. The agency
donated all the school buildings and equipment to the municipality of Gondar.

“Jews lived in Gondar for 2,500 years; however, their longing to return home never weakened,”
Sharansky said at the ceremony. “Today we bring to an end a journey that spans thousands of
years — the conclusion of Operation Wings of a Dove.”

Operation Wings of a Dove was launched in November 2010 when the Israeli government decided to check the aliya eligibility of an additional 8,000 Ethiopians.

The petitioners are known as Falash Mura — Ethiopians who claim links to descendants of Jews
who converted to Christianity generations ago but now seek to return to Judaism and immigrate to
Israel. They have been accepted to Israel under different rules than those governing other
immigrants.

A steady trickle of approximately 200 Ethiopian immigrants per month has been coming to Israel
since 2010.

A final flight of 400 Ethiopian immigrants is set to arrive in Israel on August 28. Nearly 7,000
immigrants from Ethiopia, the majority of whom are Falash Mura, have immigrated to Israel since
2010.