Opinion: Almost three decades after Operation Solomon brought thousands of Ethiopian Jews to Israel, the schism between the community and the rest of Israeli society still exists, but we must revel in all that we have achieved in just 28 years
Twenty-eight years have passed since the State of Israel carried out Operation Solomon, one of the most daring operations in the history of Zionism.
Ynet’s sister publication Yedioth Ahronoth festively quoted the book of Exodus in its May 26, 1991, main headline – “On eagles’ wings”. The caption above it read “14,400 Ethiopian Jews were rescued in a brilliant operation”.
The State of Israel used to be a small yet bold country that imposed an aerial curfew on another sovereign country to save its people. Israeli society was on cloud nine.
An entire country shed tears in front of the touching images of a quick and determined rescue by IDF soldiers of the lost black brothers, as they were finally brought back home after a long exile.
Over two and a half decades have passed since these exciting days and since the spectacular and captivating images of a Jewish soldier in uniform walking hand in hand with an elderly black Jewish woman, as he escorted her up the stairs of the Israel Air Force plane that had landed on Ethiopian soil to fulfill our forefathers’ dream.
There’s been a lot of water under the bridge since then and the Ethiopian community has experienced a great deal of racism, alienation and frustration due to their skin color.
Now those small children who were carried on IDF officers’ shoulders at Addis Ababa airport protest the disproportionate violence of the Israeli police against them, and the disrespectful and judgmental attitude based only on the color of their skin.
Some of these children became prisoners against their will; others became officers in the IDF, academics, doctors, engineers, journalists, judges and much, much more.
Recent protests have shown the cultural gap between the pure-hearted children of Operation Solomon, who were excited to move to Israel and feel like an integral part of the Israeli tribe, and those civilians who sat in front of the TV screen and shed tears of joy.
This gap still exists and even keeps on growing with time.
Twenty-eight years later, it’s time to try and mend the great schism and heal the immense pain between the Ethiopian Jewish community and the rest of Israeli society, before it also permeates my children’s generation like a severe metastatic social cancer, causing racism and alienation between the two sides that will ultimately lead to our demise, G-d forbid.
And despite all the above, the Ethiopian Aliyah, including Operation Solomon, has been and remains a tremendous success of Zionism.
We succeeded in narrowing a millennia-old gap in exile in just one generation.