This is a photograph taken at a demonstration in October 1979. The group of demonstrators consists of men and women. Two women in the middle of the photograph have their hands on the handles of a stroller in which a little girl is sitting. One young man at the back has his hand raised and is shouting. Others are looking in different directions and are clapping. Many of the demonstrators pictured in the photograph are holding signs, handwritten in Hebrew, expressing their demands. The sign in the middle of the photograph reads: “The blood of your brothers cries out to you – save us!” This is a reference to the story of Cain and Abel from the book of Genesis where God speaks to Cain about his family responsibility.
In 1979 Israelis of Ethiopian origin gathered in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem to demonstrate and call on the Israeli government to bring the remaining Ethiopian Jews to Israel. At this time, only small groups of Ethiopian Jews had managed to immigrate to Israel, and many of them had not received recognition as Jews by the religious and national authorities in Israel. A month after the demonstration, Israel launched Operation Brothers – a covert initiative organised with the Mossad to bring Ethiopian Jews to Israel via an overland journey through Sudan followed by an airlift or sea voyage to Israel. Operation Solomon and Operation Moses would follow in the years to come. Today, there are believed to be over 144,000 Israelis of Ethiopian descent living in Israel.
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Jews Community of Ethiopia – Beta Israel is the name given to Ethiopian Jews since around the fourth century. One of the traditions is that the Beta Israel are descendants of the tribe of Dan, one of the ten lost tribes. The Beta Israel Jews lived in the northern parts of Ethiopia in approximately 500 small villages. They appointed their own spiritual and secular leaders for different areas of Jewish life. There are several theories and traditions about the origins of Jews in Ethiopia. Some say that the first Jews in Ethiopia came after the destruction of the First Temple. Others claim that Ethiopian Jews are the descendants of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. During the fourth century, when Christianity became the official religion of Ethiopia, the Jewish community experienced persecution in the form of forced conversions and discrimination. During much of their history, the Jewish community of Ethiopia was cut off from the rest of world Jewry, resulting in differences in practice and observance. During that time, they were unaware of the Mishnah and Talmud, and this was reflected in the holidays and customs that they observed. From the nineteenth century, contact between the Ethiopian community and other Jewish communities was reestablished. At first, Ethiopian Jews were not recognized as Jews, but in 1973, Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef made a ruling that they descended from the tribe of Dan and were therefore Jewish. The majority of the Ethiopian Jewish community was brought to Israel in two operations. From 1983 to 1985, nearly 20,000 Ethiopian were flown to Israel in Operation Moses. In 1991, at the end of May, over 14,000 people were secretly flown to Israel in Operation Solomon. In May 2018, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin was the first Israeli head of state to visit Ethiopia. Small groups of Ethiopian Jews, mostly those with relatives in Israel, are still being brought to Israel.