Karaho family at Ben Gurion Airport
Karaho family at Ben Gurion AirportCourtesy

Itai Mangistu Karaho, a 24-year-old Ethiopian student at the Jerusalem College of Technology (JCT), had an emotional reunion earlier this month with his brother and parents, who were finally able to make aliyah to Israel (immigrate to Israel) after a 20-year wait in Addis Ababa.

Although Karaho’s mother already has family living in Israel, that did not diminish the significance of the arrival of the day which his parents and brothers had patiently waited for.

“We finally arrived to Zion, everyone is emotional, especially my mother who will be able to meet her family who made aliyah long ago,” Karaho said of his family members who landed in Israel on a flight that was part of Operation Tzur Israel, a program spearheaded by The Jewish Agency for Israel, in partnership with the Ministry of Aliyah and Integration, to bring 2,000 Ethiopian Jews to Israel.

Karaho arrived in Israel two years ago on a student visa to earn a bachelor’s degree in computer science at JCT. Unaware of the complex politics surrounding bringing the remaining Jewish community in Ethiopia to Israel, Karaho had the misconception that being in Israel would make it easier to bring his family home.

Since he came to Israel, Karaho did everything in his power to help make his family’s dream of aliyah come true, attending countless demonstrations supporting the reunification of Ethiopian families and approaching the relevant authorities.

“I went to all the demonstrations of the active organizations in support of bringing over to Israel the remaining Jews in Ethiopia,” he said. “Both for my family and for everyone else's sake who’ve been waiting there for years. It’s very hard to live in such uncertainty, especially when some of your family is already living here in Israel.”

Finally, Karaho was relieved to hear that when the government announced it was resuming Operation Tzur Israel, his family was on the list for immigration.

Karaho also celebrated his own personal victory: Now that his relatives are all in Israel, he will finally be able to trade in his student visa for permanent Israeli citizenship.

“We will all begin a new life here,” he said.

The flight included some 160 immigrants on board, including 25 children who will all be absorbed into the education system as the new school year begins. Yet there are still many more Jews in Ethiopia who are eagerly awaiting aliyah.

JCT, meanwhile, is home to the Reuven Surkis Program for Students from the Ethiopian Community, where 97% of Ethiopian students gain employment post-graduation and more than 50% go on to pursue graduate studies. Dedicated to promoting socioeconomic mobility, JCT was one of the first Israeli institutions of higher education to offer specialized programs for the Ethiopian community in the fields of science and engineering.