Dozens of community leaders from Jewish Federations across North America will accompany 180 Ethiopian new immigrants (olim) on a charter flight to Israel on Wednesday, following a three-day mission in Ethiopia.

Federation leaders are meeting with community members awaiting aliyah in Gondar and Addis Ababa, and visiting sites of historical significance for Ethiopian Jewry. The leaders are joined by other officials from the Jewish Agency for Israel, Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund (KKL-JNF), the World Zionist Organization (WZO), and the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews.

Also accompanying the passengers are Minister of Aliyah and Integration Pnina Tamano-Shata, the first Ethiopian-born woman to enter the Knesset; chairman of the WZO and acting chairman of the Jewish Agency Yaakov Hagoel; and Jeffrey A. Schoenfeld, chair of the Israel and Overseas Committee of the Jewish Federations of North America.

A second flight of 160 olim is scheduled to arrive at Ben-Gurion International Airport on Thursday.

In addition to $100 million in core funding Jewish Federations raise every year, allowing partner organizations such as the Jewish Agency to both carry out their routine work and prepare for extraordinary moments such as these, Federations have launched a campaign of more than $7 million for the continuation of aliyah from Ethiopia and for humanitarian assistance for community members waiting to leave.

The two flights mark the resumption of “Operation Tzur Israel” (“Rock of Israel”), an initiative approved by the Israeli government allowing 3,000 members of the Jewish community in Ethiopia to reunite with their family members in Israel. Some olim have waited more than 10 years to reunite with their loved ones.

Jewish Federations are awaiting final approval from the Israeli government to enable those remaining in Ethiopia to make aliyah, as thousands still remain behind.

JNS

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