Over a thousand people on Wednesday attended a state ceremony honoring Ethiopian Jews who died en route to Israel during two major waves of immigration in 1984 and 1991.
With President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Immigration and Absorption Minister Sofa Landver in attendance, the ceremony on Mount Herzl commemorated those who perished during Operations Moses and Solomon. A monument was dedicated in their memory.
Approximately 22,000 Ethiopian Jews were airlifted to Israel in the two covert operations, and a total of over 55,000 immigrated between 1980 and 2000.
The monument at the site lists 1,500 names of people who died en route to Israel, though experts say at least 4,000 died while trying to make it to Sudanese airlift points in 1984 alone.
At the ceremony, Peres lamented the discrimination Ethiopians suffered in Israel and said it was a mistake that had to be rectified. “We are brothers; there is no difference between us; it’s a shame for us to behave this way,” he said.
Netanyahu said his government was combating discrimination against Ethiopians, and that as time progressed the pain of the past would diminish. He called for greater integration of Ethiopians in all walks of Israeli society.
“We all need to learn together, all children of Israel together,” the prime minister said. “There’s no position that’s not appropriate for you to fill in this country, and you are already doing it with great success — in the IDF, universities, the Knesset, in public service, in diplomacy, in every place.”