Memorial Day for Ethiopian Jews

19th May 2023

Each year on the 28th of Iyar, the Israeli Ethiopian community remembers those who perished on their way to Israel. From 1980 to 1984, a mass immigration of Ethiopian Jews took place from their villages in Gundar and through Sudan. Those who managed to flee Ethiopia and walk for long periods, up to several months, arrived at the Ethiopian-Sudanese border and waited in provisional camps to make Aliyah. Immigrants were met at the Sudanese border by the Mossad, who instructed the Ethiopians to hide their Jewish identity.

During their escape from the Sudanese camps in an attempt to arrive at Israel, 4,000 community members died from disease, hunger, and violent robberies. Due to the instructions to hide their Jewish identity, it was difficult for them to observe Jewish law and traditions, for fear of the Sudanese guards.

In November 1984, “Operation Moses” began its the first national operation to bring the Ethiopian Jewry to Israel. This secret operation brought 8,000 Ethiopian Jews over on Israeli aircrafts. However, due to a leak of information, the operation ended before schedule and several families were left behind or torn apart, until May 1991, when 14,324 more immigrants were brought within 36 hours during “Operation Solomon.”

In 2003, the  government decided that a national memorial ceremony to honor those who perished would be held each year on the 28th of Iyar, Jerusalem Day.