A Brief History of the Ethiopian Israeli Community
Since ancient times, Ethiopian Jews have maintained a close link to their Jewish identity and traditions. A yearning for Jerusalem has always been central to their culture and customs.
Despite numerous set-backs and tremendous hardships, in the 20th century their dream of immigrating to their homeland in Israel became a reality.
1975 - The Israeli government confirms that the “Law of Return” applies to Ethiopian Jews.
1979-1990 - A Mossad agent organizes the first journey of 32 Ethiopian Jews to Israel through Sudan. Their letters home inspire many Ethiopians to attempt the journey through Sudan on foot. The journey is filled with dangers, and during the 1980’s thousands of Ethiopians die en route to Israel.
- Operation Moses: Approximately 7,000 Ethiopian Jews arrive in Israel on 23 secret flights flying through Europe. Following a leak to the press about the operation, the Arab world is outraged and the operation is stopped. Numerous Ethiopians are separated from family members left behind in Ethiopia.
Today’s Challenges in the Ethiopian Israeli Community
While Ethiopian Israelis have made many strides in Israeli society during the past two decades, their overall picture, as compared to the rest of Israeli society, still remains bleak. According to recent studies by the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics, only 30% of Ethiopian Israelis (compared to the national average of 50%) complete their high school matriculation exams. The average Ethiopian Israeli household has a monthly income of only NIS 7,328 (~ $1,800), compared with an Israeli national average of NIS 12,010 (~$ 3,000).
Furthermore, there is a far higher incidence of single-parent households, 23%, more than twice the nationwide percentage.
Our program allows students who are academically and motivationally capable of acquiring degrees to complete their studies without having finances or socio-economic pressures become a deciding factor.
1985-1990 - The flow of Ethiopian Jews coming to Israel through Sudan is renewed. Through rescue missions by the Mossad, 1500 immigrants arrive to Israel. During a time span of 10 years, the Mossad helps close to 16,000 Ethiopian Jews through Sudan, not including those who came with Operation Solomon.
1989 - Renewal of diplomatic relations between Ethiopia and Israel: an Israeli embassy opens in Addis Ababa and Ethiopian Jews start arriving to Addis Ababa from surrounding villages.
1991 - Operation Solomon, May 25-26th, 1991: Within 36 hours, an unprecedented aliyah operation takes place and 14,310 members of “Beta Israel” are brought to Israel by air from Addis Ababa. During 1990-1993 over 30,000 Ethiopian Jews arrive in Israel.
2020 - Israel estimates that approximately 145,000 Ethiopian Jews are living in the State of Israel. The aliyah from Ethiopia continues today.
All of these realities lead many highly talented and motivated Ethiopians Israelis to succumb to economic and emotional pressures and to remain trapped in a vicious poverty cycle which does not enable them to fulfill their potential as the highly-educated contributing members of Israeli society that they long to be.
Fortunately, there is no shortage of talented and motivated Ethiopians, and if not for lack of financial resources, many more would presently be enrolled in higher academic institutions.
At present, Keren Hanan Aynor turns away over 60% of our qualified applicants due to lack of funds. On a regular basis, it comes to our attention that students who have been turned down by our program due to lack of funding, have either taken a leave of absence from school for a year or have left academia completely. This type of finance-related dropout is directly impacted by the number of scholarships which we are able to provide each year.