Return of the Exiles

Ethiopia

Also known as “Beta Israel” or “Falashas,” the Ethiopian Jews claim descent from the Biblical Tribe of Dan. Their ancestors were exiled from the Land of Israel by the Assyrians around 2,600 years ago.

This claim of descent from the Tribe of Dan was accepted by Rabbinic leaders in the 1970’s.

While in Ethiopia, the “Beta Israel” maintained a separate identity from other Ethiopians and even maintained their own religious observances and social structure. They had a tradition that they would one day return to the Land of Israel and worship God at the Third Temple. This was commemorated every year at their Sigd festival, which many Ethiopian Jews continue to observe every winter in Jerusalem.

A number of individual Ethiopian Jews made their way to Israel from the 1930s to the 70s, but the community began moving to Israel en masse in the 80s.

The first emergency airlift operation, Operation Moses, in 1984, was followed by the smaller Operation Joshua in 1985. These operations saved around 8,000 Ethiopian Jews from the civil war and famine at the time. Operation Solomon was even bigger, bringing 14,324 Jews to Israel in 1991.

To this day, the Israeli government continues to bring groups of Ethiopian Jews to Israel through Operation Tzur, with the goal of uniting families.