STEVEN Lowy and Gary Perlstein have described accompanying 95 Ethiopian olim on a flight to Israel on February 1 – following a three-day stay in the Gondar region – as part of a Keren Hayesod-UIA delegation as incredible, and deeply moving.
The flight was for family reunification as part of the second phase of Operation Tzur, conducted with the support of Keren Hayesod and the Jewish Agency, after a gap of several months.
The first phase began in September 2020, with the aim of bringing 3000 Ethiopian Jews to Israel, who have been waiting for years at transit camps in Gondar and Addis Ababa.
But it has been halted several times due to the civil war in Ethiopia, and political instability in Israel.
The delegation’s time in Gondar included visiting old synagogues, a trip to the ancient Jewish village of Ambovar, and a visit to Kasouya lookout, which overlooks rugged mountains that tens of thousands of Jews traversed to enter Sudan, in often deadly journeys by foot in the 1980s during Operation Moses.
Lowy, chair of Keren HaYesod-UIA’s World Board of Trustees, described the delegation’s time in Ethiopia as “the most amazing mission, travelling to Gondar and seeing the horrific conditions that these Jews grew up in”.
“But most importantly, to see how Jewish life was thriving all those years ago, to pray with them in the synagogues, to go into their homes and see the eyes of the children, and the hope that their families have – that was the most rewarding experience.
“I think we should all feel, not that we’re helping them, but [rather] I have no doubt that they are really helping us – to understand the history of the Jewish people.”
Before boarding the flight to Israel with the 95 olim, Perlstein – UIA NSW’s president – said, “Going to the Land of Israel, and [particularly] Jerusalem, is something they’ve been dreaming for all their lives.
“We’ve had an incredible few days here on the ground, exploring our Jewish heritage, understanding the culture, and now boarding the flight to share this experience with them.”
Steven Lowy (left) with Gary Perlstein inside a synagogue in Ethiopia.
The Ethiopian olim upon arrival in Israel on February 1. Photo: Keren Hayesod