The arrival of the Ethiopian community enriched the cultural and social fabric of Israeli society.

 President Peres at memorial ceremony for Ethiopian Jews


Copyright: GPO/Mark Neiman

(Communicated by the Office of the President)

President Shimon Peres delivered remarks at the state memorial ceremony for the Jews of Ethiopia who died on their journey to Israel

President Shimon Peres, this morning (Wednesday, 8 May 2013), laid a wreath and delivered remarks at the state memorial ceremony for Ethiopian Jews who died on their way to Israel. President Peres eulogized the fallen and said:

"Many of those who departed for the journey didn’t make it to the Jewish homeland. Today, at this huge event, the State of Israel honors their memory and their bravery. The story of the ‘Exodus from Ethiopia’ encapsulated the ethos of our people, courage – your spirit was a source of pride not only for your community but for us all. Here, standing by our national flag, we salute you all. Here and now, beside this monument, we bow our heads in memory of those Ethiopians who perished on their journey to Israel. To us they are heroes who fell in the line of duty."

President Peres addressed in his remarks the efforts invested by the State of Israel to ensure that the Ethiopian Jewish community could come to Israel and said, "Israel made great efforts to ensure the freedom of Ethiopia’s Jews. The State of Israel made use of its civilian and military long range capabilities to bring our sons and daughters home. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Jewish Agency, the IDF, the Mossad, Jews from Israel and the diaspora all joined hands in this operation."

President Peres said that three days ago he had received a letter from Barbara Bush (the wife of former US President George H.W. Bush, who served as Vice President during Operation Moses). Then US Vice President Bush had accepted President Peres’ request (who was Prime Minister at the time) to help save the lives of the immigrants; "Vice President Bush, who was visiting Israel at the time, immediately agreed to send United States Air Force planes to land in the Sudanese desert and bring the remaining Jews by plane. It was the first time, the only time in history; the United States Air Force planes took part in the modern day exodus. When the planes arrived, with whole families aboard, I stood on the runway with tears in my eyes; it was an emotional moment, rare and historic."

President Peres congratulated the Ethiopian Jewish community for its integration into Israel society, the IDF, culture, medicine and technology:

"The arrival of the Ethiopian community enriched the cultural and social fabric of Israeli society. Three weeks ago, on Independence Day, I saw this first hand. Amongst the 120 outstanding soldiers at the reception in the President’s Residence there was a proportionally higher number of Ethiopians than in society as a whole.

There is nothing more heartwarming than the sight of a young person, a son or daughter of Ethiopian immigrants, excelling in their military service and proudly wearing officer ranks. Or to meet doctors from the Ethiopian community. Or to see outstanding Ethiopian artists on television, or to find them excelling in the technology sector. Outstanding members of the Ethiopian Jewish community and of Israeli society."