Hundreds of Ethiopian immigrants get warm welcome in Israel

Hundreds of Ethiopian immigrants have arrived to a festive ceremony at Israel’s international airport

Although the families are of Jewish descent and many are practicing Jews, Israel does not consider them Jewish under religious law. Instead, they were permitted to enter the country under a family-unification program that requires special government approval.

A large delegation of Israeli officials welcomed the group, and Pnina Tamano-Shata, the country’s first Ethiopian-born Cabinet minister, traveled to Ethiopia to join them on the flight.

“My wife Sara and myself were standing there with tears in our eyes,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at a welcoming ceremony. “This is the essence of our Jewish story, the essence of the Zionist story.”

Activists for Ethiopian Aliyah, a group promoting family unification, estimates that some 7,000 Ethiopian Jews remain behind in Ethiopia, some of whom have been waiting for years to join their families.

“The government is celebrating a few hundred immigrants from Ethiopia, while thousands were supposed to be here and are still left behind while their fate is in question,” he said.