1991's Operation Solomon brought over 14,000 Ethiopian Jews home to Israel

On May 25th, 1991, Israeli Operation Solomon flies more than 14,000 Ethiopian Jews to Israel in just 36 hours using over 30 airplanes, including a Boeing 747 that set an astonishing record of carrying 1,087 passengers. The operation brings almost twice as many Ethiopians to Israel as arrived through the previous Operation Moses in 1985.

With the establishment of the State of Israel, the government considered helping the community but rejected it on the grounds of lack of urgency and cultural differences. During this period, a number of families arrived from Beta Israel as well as mixed families who lived in the Bagamdar district and Eritrea. Until the early 1970s, only a few Jews immigrated from Ethiopia, some of them without obtaining immigration visas to Israel.

The situation of Ethiopia’s ancient Jewish community, Beta Israel, became steadily worse beginning in 1974 due to constant civil unrest along with harassment on behalf and forced conversions on behalf of their Christian neighbors. About 8,000 Jews legally emigrated from Ethiopia and settled in Israel between the 1970s and early 80s, but the Ethiopian government then banned Jewish emigration. 

Thousands of Beta Israel, hoping to walk all the way to Israel, made a rough journey to Sudan, where they remained in refugee camps for the time being. Through Operation Moses, Israel brought about 7,000 of Beta Israel to the Jewish state in less than six weeks in late 1984. Over those seven weeks, over 30 flights brought about 200 Ethiopian Jews to Israel. There were approximately as few as 250 Ethiopian immigrants in Israel before Operation Moses. After Sudan stopped cooperating in January 1985, the United States launched Operation Joshua to move about 500 Jews stranded in Sudan to Israel.

For the Jews who remained in Ethiopia, the violence and persecution only got worse. Israel reached an agreement with Ethiopia to allow Jewish emigration in 1990, but rebels overthrew Mengistu Haile Mariam’s dictatorship in 1991 and again raised the danger for Beta Israel communities. Operation Solomon was Israel’s response, creating a negotiated 48-hour window to evacuate Ethiopian Jews. The future of Ethiopia’s remaining Jews would become a persistent issue for Israel and its Ethiopian community. 

On November 16, 2015, the Israeli cabinet unanimously voted in favor of allowing the last group of Ethiopian Jewry to immigrate over the upcoming five years, but their acceptance would be conditional on a successful Jewish conversion process, according to the Interior Ministry. 


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