Thursday’s ceremony honoring the thousands who lost their lives attempting to reach the Jewish state included Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, other government officials, and Israel’s Ethiopian Jewish community.
At the official memorial site in the National Civil Cemetery of the State of Israel on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem, people gathered to pay respects to the 4,000 Beta Israel members who perished during the arduous trek.
Between 1979 and 1990, the majority perished from starvation and sickness as they walked from transit camps in Ethiopia to the neighboring Sudan.
Speaking at the event, Netanyahu said, “One of the expatriates from Ethiopia says, I quote: ‘In our parents’ house we “ate” Jerusalem, “drank” Jerusalem, slept and woke up with Jerusalem, and when a daughter was born in the family we called her “Jerusalem,” despite the bullying of the foreign environment.’
In the center of Africa, a significant portion of daily life is focused on Jerusalem in prayers, fantasies, and thoughts. So, the prime minister continued, and it was passed down from generation to generation.
He commended revisions to the curriculum that added information about the Ethiopian exodus and pledged to increase support for housing, jobs, education, and health.
Netanyahu referred to a Sunday demonstration by Ethiopian Israelis outside his office, demanding more outstanding funds for their neighborhood.
Also speaking to the crowd was President Isaac Herzog.
In a series of airlifts beginning in 1980, some 90,000 Ethiopian Jews arrived in Israel.
These airlifts, nevertheless, were hampered by Israeli funding and administrative problems, arguments over whether or not specific Ethiopian Jewish groups could be recognized as Jews, civil conflicts and instability in both Ethiopia and Sudan and more recently, travel restrictions due to the coronavirus.
Approximately 160,000 Ethiopian Israelis exist, making up nearly 2% of the population.
On Thursday, many participated in Jerusalem Day, commemorating the city’s unification during the Six-Day War.