Sav­ing the flame of Jewish life

Rivlin, Ne­tanyahu pay trib­ute to Ethiopi­ans who died on the way to Is­rael

The Jerusalem Post - - NEWS - • Jerusalem Post staff

At a cer­e­mony Sun­day memo­ri­al­iz­ing those who per­ished en route from Ethiopia to Is­rael, Prime Min­is­ter Benjamin Ne­tanyahu vowed to erad­i­cate racism in Is­raeli so­ci­ety.

“This is an alarm­ing phe­nom­e­non among us. It’s some­thing that is un­ac­cept­able,” he said at the na­tional memo­rial cer­e­mony held on Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl. “We are against this with all our might, and it has no place in Is­rael. You are the flesh of our flesh, an in­te­gral part of our na­tion, equal among equals.”

The names of more than 1,500 Ethiopian Jews who set out for Is­rael but died on their trip, most in Su­dan, are en­graved on a mon­u­ment at Mount Herzl. Ev­ery year a cer­e­mony is held to com­mem­o­rate them on the eve of Jerusalem Day, in honor of their life­long – but un­ful­filled dream of reach­ing Jerusalem.

“Even in the dark­est pe­ri­ods in our his­tory, in the dark­ness of ex­ile, the deep­est of de­spair, there was al­ways one light of hope that il­lu­mi­nated the way: Jerusalem, Zion,” Ne­tanyahu told the as­sem­bled crowd. “Who bet­ter than you know it. You saved the flame of Jewish life in Ethiopia, amid suf­fer­ing and hard­ship. For many gen­er­a­tions you clung to the dream of a re­turn to Jerusalem, and that hope was ful­filled – you fi­nally ar­rived home. You won, and we all won.”

Pres­i­dent Reu­ven Rivlin also spoke at the cer­e­mony, promis­ing to spread the com­mu­nity’s story of de­vo­tion to their dream of aliya.

“I stand along­side the mon­u­ment which tells your story – the story of the vil­lages and towns from which you came, the story of the home left be­hind, the story of the long and painful jour­ney which you chose to un­der­take, a story of yearn­ing, of long­ing for Zion. This story, is one of your hero­ism, of a strong and de­ter­mined com­mu­nity,” said Rivlin. “My broth­ers and sis­ters, Is­raelis of Ethiopian ori­gin. I of­ten ask my­self if, while you de­cided to set out on the jour­ney, did you imag­ine the price, the price your of de­vo­tion to Jerusalem, which you were forced to pay. A heavy price; fi­nan­cially, phys­i­cally, spir­i­tu­ally, and in the dif­fi­cult ac­cli­ma­tion.”

The pres­i­dent also re­it­er­ated the im­por­tance of the ab­sorp­tion of im­mi­grants into Is­rael, say­ing that “Is­raeli so­ci­ety is ob­li­gated to con­tinue to read­dress the fail­ures, and en­sure aliya to Is­rael be­comes more and more at­trac­tive.”

Im­mi­gra­tion to Is­rael, he said, “places de­mands not only on the new ar­rivals, but first of all on the coun­try to where they are ar­riv­ing, that it should be fit­ting of the jour­ney which they made to it. True, mis­takes have been made de­spite the best in­ten­tions, many times we did not un­der­stand the chal­lenges which lie be­fore you.”

(Marc Is­rael Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)

ETHIOPIAN IS­RAELIS bow their heads yes­ter­day at a cer­e­mony on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem re­mem­ber­ing the thou­sands of Jews who died en route from Africa to Is­rael.

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