302 Ethiopian new immigrants arrive to Israel

Jerusalem (ANS) – A 6-year-old boy was immediately whisked from the emergency airlift straight to the hospital for life-saving heart surgery.
Dr. Jürgen Bühler, President of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, welcomes new immigrants from Ethiopia (Photo: ICEJ)

A group of 302 Ethiopian-Jewish immigrants were granted exemption from Israel’s airport closure and were permitted to land in Tel Aviv on a fully-chartered flight sponsored by the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem (ICEJ) last week including a boy who needed life-saving surgery.

Upon arrival, a 6-year-old Ethiopian boy named Benjamin was immediately transported to the Wolfson Medical Center in central Israel to undergo urgent life-saving heart treatment.

Benjamin’s remarkable arrival in Israel was a collaborative effort by several government agencies including the Ministry of Health, the Jewish Agency, Keren Hayesod – United Israel Appeal, the Ministry of Aliyah and Integration and the Ministry of Interior. His surgery was coordinated by Save a Child’s Heart (SACH), an Israeli non-profit humanitarian organization that has continued to provide treatments to thousands of children worldwide despite the coronavirus pandemic.

Benjamin is currently recovering at SACH’s Legacy Heritage Children’s home where he will receive ongoing medical assistance while his mother waits to board a flight to Israel to join him.

Last week’s airlift was the most recent phase of the Jewish Agency’s broader rescue mission “Operation Rock of Israel,” which had set an ambitious goal to bring 2,000 Jewish-Ethiopian immigrants — including the last remnant of the Falash Mura community — to Israel by the end of January. The program was successfully moving forward with weekly flights into Israel until Jan. 26, when the government shuttered Ben-Gurion International Airport in an attempt to reduce the spread of COVID-19 infections and prevent new variances of coronavirus from entering the country. The mandatory travel ban created a sudden, unexpected backlog of flights from Ethiopia.

The ICEJ appealed and received approval from a special exceptions committee, which allowed the charter flight to land in Israel on Feb. 12.

Prior to boarding the flight, the Ethiopian immigrants were required to pass a coronavirus test at University Hospital in the city of Gondar. After passengers received negative test results, they were transported on a 12-hour bus ride to Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa, and then boarded the plane for their 4-hour flight to Israel. Since their arrival, the newcomers have been quarantined in several absorption centers throughout the country.

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