Today’s message comes from Kim Salzman, Federation’s Israel and Overseas Director. Kim, in Israel, was able to participate in a Purim miracle story this morning representing all of us! Make sure to check out the few pictures taken by Kim.
“WOW! Today was such a special day for me and the entire Jewish people. This morning, as the sun rose over Israel, 280 Ethiopians made aliyah to Israel as part of Operation Tzur Yisrael (Rock of Israel). I had the honor and privilege to represent our Federation in a welcoming ceremony held at Ben Gurion Airport. Many of these new olim (immigrants) have been waiting for years to return to Jerusalem and reunite with their families, and you could see how overwhelmed they were with emotion when the stepped onto Israeli soil, bent down on hands and knees, and kissed the ground. The new olim arrived dressed in their finest garb for this momentous day, with many of the women wearing traditional Ethiopian robes and the men wearing kippot and suits and ties. Among those on the flight were the mother of 6 year-old Binyamin who is awaiting a life-saving heart surgery at Wolfson Hospital, and a man who has waited 24 years to immigrate to Israel and reunite with his brother. The fact that these new olim returned home on Purim, a holiday commemorating Jewish persecution and survival, made the occasion all the more meaningful.
The Chair of the Jewish Agency, Isaac Herzog, and the Minister of Aliyah and Absorption, Pnina Tamano Shato, together with representatives from Federations around North America, greeted these new olim with Federation facemasks, Israeli flags, and mishlochei manot (Purim gift baskets) for the children. It was an experience I will never forget and it filled me with pride knowing that our Federation played an important role in making today possible through the core support we provide to the Jewish Agency.
Some of you know that Israel closed the airport over a month ago to prevent new strains of COVID-19 from coming into the country, but the government made an exception for this and other flights bringing Ethiopian olim, including one from two weeks ago – making Operaton Tzur Yisrael unique and challenging in many ways. The new olim are now headed to a hotel in Haifa where they will stay for a 2 week quarantine, after which they will be housed in Jewish Agency absorption centers around the country where they will learn Hebrew and be given the tools and knowledge needed to successfully navigate and integrate into Israeli society. As they boarded the buses taking them to their quarantine hotel, I saw many injera (an Ethiopian flat pancake-like bread) baskets in the trunk space of the bus. As these new olim take on a new citizenship and a new life, these injera baskets will serve as a reminder of where they came from.
On my drive home, I listened to the Galgalatz, Israel’s leading radio station. I listened to songs in Hebrew, Arabic, Amharic (Ethiopia’s national language), Portuguese, and French, and I thought to myself how the choice of songs was a perfect representation of how Israel truly is a Kibbutz Galuyot, or the gathering of the exiles. Today the dreams of 280 Ethiopian olim joined the amazing kibbutz Galuyot that is the State of Israel and fulfilled their dreams of returning to their historic homeland. This wouldn’t have been possible without the support of the Federation network and without you!
Attached are a few pictures from this morning. Am Yisrael Chai! The People of Israel Live!”