Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Ethiopian Community of Israel and Jerusalem

Michal Korach

In 1984, the first mass immigration wave of Ethiopian Jews to Israel, known as Operation Moses, began, followed ten years later by a second wave – Operation Solomon.
By the end of 2008, the Ethiopian-Israeli community numbered 119,300 members and made up about 2% of Israel's Jewish population. Of the community's members, 68% had been born in Ethiopia and 32% were Israeli-born with an Ethiopian-born father.

The majority of Ethiopian-Israelis reside in central Israel (39%) and in the South (24%). The localities with the largest Ethiopian communities are Netanya (10,500), Ashdod (6,400), Rehovot (6,300), and Beer Sheva (6,300).
Localities in which the Ethiopian population makes up a relatively large proportion of the local population are: Kiryat Malakhi (17%), Be'er Ya'akov (12%), Kiryat Ekron (8%), Afula (8%), and Gadera (8%).

In 2008, the Ethiopian community of Jerusalem numbered 5,000 residents who accounted for 1% of Jerusalem's Jewish population and were mainly concentrated in the neighborhoods of Ir Ganim Gimel, Shikunei Talpiot, and Katamon Tet. Other localities around Jerusalem with large concentrations of the Ethiopian-Israeli community were: Beit Shemesh (3,100), Mevasseret Zion (1,400) and Ma'ale Adumim (650).

Every Jerusalem Day a national ceremony is held by Ethiopian Jews in commemoration of 4,000 Ethiopian community members who died in the Sudanese desert on their way to Israel. A monument to the deceased is located in Jerusalem and a memorial ceremony is held on Jerusalem Day as a symbol of the strong attachment that Ethiopian Jews feel toward Jerusalem. Until 2007, the memorial ceremony to commemorate the fallen was held at a temporary monument built in 1989 in Kibbutz Ramat Rahel (which is adjacent to Jerusalem). In 2007 a permanent monument was inaugurated on Mount Herzl and the ceremony has been held there since. The Mount Herzl monument features elements symbolizing Ethiopia and the journey to Israel, including desert expanses and wooden huts.

Source: The Ethiopian Population of Israel, Central Bureau of Statistics.