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5,000 People Gather in Support of Ethiopian Jews

July 27, 1987

JERUSALEM (AP) _ Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir led more than 5,000 Ethiopian immigrants Monday in an impassioned plea to Ethiopian leaders to free members of that nation’s Jewish minority.

Many of the rally’s participants have relatives in the northern African nation who are not permitted by Ethiopia’s Marxist leaders to emigrate.

″Please, Ethiopian leaders, bring us our Ethiopian Jews,″ Shamir said in a crowded National Buildings auditorium here. ″Stop this misery, send our people to Israel and you will have the Jewish people forever grateful to you.″

Israel brought about 7,500 Jews from famine-stricken Ethiopia in a secret rescue mission in 1984-85.

The airlift, code-named ″Operation Moses″ and carried out with U.S. assistance, was halted shortly after its details leaked out in January 1985.

As a result, families were separated and more than 10,000 Jews who wanted to leave are stranded.

Among speakers at the rally was Nathan Sharansky, a human rights activist who spent nine years in Soviet jails. He criticized the Israeli government for being too soft with Ethiopia.

″Israel isn’t being tough enough about this,″ said Sharansky. ″Sometimes I feel my government doesn’t realize enough that the future of Israel depends on the people who have yet to arrive.″

Nielkamu Yaoub, 21, a person in the crowd who was airlifted from Ethiopia in 1985, said his three brothers and two sisters were left behind and separated from their children, who came to Israel with his parents.

″I have gotten letters from my brothers and sisters and they are suffering,″ Yaoub said. ″They miss their children terribly. I think they would give their lives to be with their children for just one hour.″

Also Monday, legislator Miriam Glazer-Taasa said during a session of parliament devoted to the issue that Israel must actively seek the support of Western countries that have economic ties with Ethiopia and could thus exert some pressure.

According to Israel’s Immigration Ministry, about 16,000 Ethiopian Jews have reached Israel since the 1970s.

Ethiopian Jews trace their origins from the Queen of Sheba and the biblical King Solomon, who lived in the 10th century B.C.