Thousands of Ethiopians and supporters join Mulet Hararo, who set out on a 70Km 3-day trek to Jerusalem from his home in Kiryat Malachi, at the Wohl Rose Garden opposite the Knesset protesting racism. 18th January 2012
Mulet Hararo, 26, an IDF officer and physical education student, called on all Israelis to join him on his march, intended ‘to awaken Israeli society from its coma.’ "We, the new generation, are ready to make great sacrifices. We are fighting for the future generations" he said.
The Ethiopian Jewish community, called Beta-Israel, lived in seclusion for over 1,000 years, only reconnecting to the Jewish world in the late 20th century. According to Ethiopian tradition, their roots go back 3,000 years to the era of King Solomon. Like their brethren in many parts of the world, Ethiopian Jews suffered persecution for their beliefs and refusal to adopt Christianity. In the Middle Ages their lands were confiscated, villages plundered and many murdered. They were nicknamed Falash - intruders, homeless and without property. The Ethiopian Jewish community, living for so long in complete seclusion, were convinced they were the last Jews left on the face of the Earth. They practiced all the religious rituals with which they were familiar including male circumcision on the eight day from birth, Kashrut (Kosher) rules dealing with food, the holiness of the Sabbath and they prayed, three times a day, facing the holy city of Jerusalem, yearning to return.
In 1975 Israel formally recognized “Beita Israel” as a part of the Jewish nation. In 1977 Israeli PM Menachem Begin instructed the government to bring them home. The Ethiopian government refused to release them and millions of dollars were transferred to the government of Sudan for them to be allowed refugee status in its territory. The rumor spread quickly to villages all over Ethiopia – a route to Jerusalem via Sudan. Thousands left their homes overnight and set out on a long and dangerous journey to Sudan through unbearable desert heat, thirst and hunger, avoiding bandits and the Ethiopian military. They left everything they had behind. They were walking towards fulfillment of a thousands of years old dream – reuniting with Jerusalem.
Refugee camps in Sudan were of horrible conditions - hunger, illness, epidemics and death. Four thousand men, women and children, one fifth of the community perished on their way to fulfilling the dream.
In1984 Israel activated “Operation Moshe”. Four thousand Ethiopian Jews were brought to Israel in a lightning fast attempt to save them. Families came apart. Children were quickly loaded on airlifts sometimes without their parents. The operation was abruptly aborted when leaks to the press hit the headlines all over the world. US intervention brought an additional six U.S. Hercules airplanes with refugees to Israel.
In1991 political changes in Ethiopia caused great worry for the destiny of the remaining Ethiopian Jews. “Operation Shlomo” began. Tens of millions of dollars changed hands as bribery and air lifts to Israel began again. In less than 48 hours 14,000 were saved and flown to the Israel.
The reality of Jerusalem, not literally of gold, a modern city far from purity and holiness was a shock to many. Integration into the Israeli society was not easy for Ethiopian Jews. Culture shock, lack of education, lack of work skills, the undermining of the traditional family structure, all caused alienation and detachment. Separated Ethiopian neighborhoods evolved as a result of government policy mistakes and Ethiopian aspiration to stay together.