President Rivlin at memorial ceremony for Ethiopian Jews IV - 21 May 2020
President Rivlin at memorial ceremony for Ethiopian Jews IV - 21 May 2020Mark Neyman/GPO

President Reuven Rivlin today delivered remarks at the official memorial ceremony for Ethiopian Jews who died on their way to Israel, held at Har Herzl. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Speaker of the Knesset Yariv Levin, Minister of Immigration and Absorption Pnina Tamano-Shata, Supreme Court Justice David Mintz and representatives of the bereaved families also participated in the ceremony. Almaz Mengistu was the compere of the ceremony, and Eden Alana performed two of her songs, and was overcome with tears while performing her song “The Journey To Eretz Yisrael.”

In his remarks, the president said “the Beta Israel left a country they knew, land, property and embarked on an exhausting exodus holding only the yearning that had been passed down the generations: Yerusalem, Jerusalem. Those who came up to Jerusalem did not bring only their longing for Zion, but also the heavy price of longing for Zion.”

“In his book ‘The Journey Is Not Over’, Danny – Adino Abeba, an Ethiopian-Israeli journalist – tells a heart-wrenching story about one of the women who came to Israel. I would like to read a few words of her testimony,” said the president. “’I had a baby who was born in Ethiopia a few months before we set out. She had beautiful eyes and a gentle face. She managed fine on the trek to Sudan. At the camp she was a little sick, but recovered. I prayed that we would get through the difficult days at the camp and quickly all get to Israel. And then, one day, our turn came. There was great joy. I dressed the baby in several layers and put her on my back, as they do in Ethiopia. But when I came off the plane, I felt my back was cold. A few minutes later, I was given the most dreadful news that a mother can hear: my baby had died. I did everything I could to bring her here safely, and on what was supposed to be the happiest moment in my life, I carried her dead body on my back.’”

“Not everyone came home, to Jerusalem,” said the president. “Fathers and sons, sisters and brothers, grandchildren and grandparents, did not survive the journey. They could not survive the exhausting trek, the robbers along the way, the hunger, the diseases, the terrible conditions in the transit camps. We hold their memory in our hearts forever. Jerusalem holds their memory in its heart forever. Your love of Jerusalem is an eternal torch, whose top touches the heavens. A pillar of fire that shows all Israelis the way. May the memories of those who lost their lives on the way to Jerusalem and Israel, our brothers and sisters, be forever in our hearts.”