We always think of Passover as a difficult journey to freedom that our ancestors took long ago and one that made us into a nation. Great journeys can accomplish just that.
This Passover, I want you to think about your involvement in making another journey to freedom happen today. In 2011, the Government of Israel -- after much advocacy by American Jewish communities -- asked The Jewish Agency to take responsibility for operations in Gondar Province, Ethiopia, to facilitate the aliyah of the Falash Mura, the last group of Beta Israel Jews.
We are now completing the journey that we started decades ago, bringing the final group of Ethiopian immigrants to their Jewish homeland.
In 2010, the Israeli Ministry of the Interior identified 7,864 members of the Falash Mura who were eligible for aliyah. That number has risen and the Government of Israel made a decision to increase the rate of aliyah in February 2012. This means The Jewish Agency had to renovate and prepare absorption centers and do the groundwork in Ethiopia and Israel. To date the “Completing the Journey” mission supported by our partners – Jewish Federations of North America, Keren Hayesod and the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews has helped over 5,000 individuals make aliyah while 2,000 more are waiting. We hope to bring the last person to Israel by this fall, bringing this historic chapter of Ethiopian aliyah to a close. We still need to raise about $2 million to pay for this operation but we are confident that our partners will accomplish this working with us. Your help with this effort in celebration of Passover would go a long way towards that goal.
Imagine for a moment, the very last Ethiopian boarding the plane for Israel. Imagine the announcement in the news when the job is done that Israel is the only country in the modern world to take Africans out of Africa for freedom and not for slavery. It is yet another moment when you stand back and say, “Only in Israel.”
More than 4,600 of the new olim will be participating in their first Passover seders this year in Jerusalem and one of the absorption centers in Israel thanks to the generosity of Jewish Federation and Jewish Agency donors in New York, Cleveland Karen Hayesod countries and elsewhere making special donations for these celebrations to take place.
In the Haggadah we read about our obligation to relive history and recreate it at our tables. This year we have a chance to do more than talk about an ancient story. We can be part of an ongoing exodus to our homeland. I know personally what it means to be part of an exodus. I know what it means to me to know that world Jewry fought for my right to be free. I was a stranger, but thousands of people cared enough to protest until my family could leave the FSU.
The exodus teaches us to make strangers into friends, to fight for freedom against oppression and to make the world into a place of social justice and into a place of dreams. This year, live the dream and help us make history.
Wishing you and those you love a holiday of joy and freedom.
Dr. Misha Galperin is President & CEO of Jewish Agency International