1991 – Operation Solomon

By Georgie Friend (Bogeret and Madricha)

Ethiopia has long been home to small Jewish population, known as the Beta Yisrael. In 1991, Ethiopia began to destabilise as the Soviet Union relinquished control of the area. This left the country at the mercy of various rebel groups vying for control, which left Israel concerned about the safety of the Beta Yisrael. Feeling a duty to protect the Jewish people, no matter where they came from, the Israeli government sent 35 planes to transport over 14,000 Ethiopian Jews into Israel to start a new life. The operation was so large scale that the seats had to be stripped out of the planes in order to fit as many passengers as possible. The number of Ethiopian citizens involved in Operation Solomon grew in the 36 hours it took, as several pregnant women gave birth on plane.

1990 – USSR open borders

By Noa Lightman (Madricha)

The 1990s Post-Soviet aliyah began en masse in the late 1980s when the government of Mikhail Gorbachev opened the borders of the USSR and allowed Jews to leave the country for Israel. Between 1989 and 2006, about 1.6 million Soviet Jews and their non-Jewish relatives and spouses, emigrated from the former Soviet Union, of this amount about 61% migrated to Israel. As the wave of emigration began, Soviet Jews who wanted to emigrate left the Soviet Union for various European countries and began gathering at transit points, from where they were flown to Israel, and the Israeli government ordered the national airline El Al to put every available plane at the disposal of the immigrants. Some Soviet immigrants also came by sea on chartered ships.The majority of the immigrant wave were Ashkenazi Jews; however, a significant proportion were Mizrahi groups such as Georgian Jews, and Bukharan Jews– with each ethnic group bringing its own distinctive culture to Israel. Direct flights from the Soviet Union to Israel carrying immigrants took place in January and February 1990. The first direct flight, which carried 125 immigrants, departed Moscow on January 1, 1990.
The absorption laws changed with time. The basic government grants given to each immigrant changed rapidly from the late 1980s to the late 1990s. Most of the immigrants initially located on the periphery and later dispersed to the "Russian" neighbourhoods. These were cities, mainly in the medium and lower socio-economic levels, in which immigrants constituted over 50% of all the residents. According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, the Soviet immigrants initially had a much lower material standard of living and much higher unemployment rates than the veteran population, however their situation gradually improved the longer they stayed in Israel. The group successfully integrated economically into Israel and in 2012, the average salary of Former Soviet Union immigrants was comparable to that of native-born Israeli Jews.

1989 – Mass Soviet immigration

By Aaron Barrie (Madrich)

In 1989 Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev lifted restrictions on emigration, allowing Soviet Jews who wanted to make aliyah to do so. That same year 12,000 of them immigrated to Israel by the Law of Return. They set up stock in places like Haifa, Be’er Sheva and Tel Aviv, among others.
Although there was some tension between Israelis and the new Russian immigrants, on the whole the Russians assimilated quite quickly into Israeli society, perhaps due to some provisions being made for Russian-speakers.
Between 1989 and the present day, well over 1 million people from former Soviet countries immigrated to Israel, with 20% of Israel’s current population having been born in Russia. Today, Russia still boasts a higher rate of aliyah to Israel than any other country in the world.

1988 – Palestinian declaration of independence

By Jess Bloom (Bogeret and Madricha)

In 1988 Israel’s right to exist was recognised following the Palestinian Declaration of Independence which was proclaimed by Yasser Arafat, the chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO). Whilst the declaration did not explicitly recognise the State of Israel, Yasser Arafat, who was then elected as the first President of the State of Palestine, acknowledged Israel’s right to exist and stated that he was in support of the two-state solution to the Israel in Geneva.

The declaration opens with the words, “Palestine, the land of the three monotheistic faiths…”, a statement that is significant as it showed recognition for the fact that Judaism is integral to the heritage of the ancient land. A further significance of this declaration was that it called for multilateral negotiations on the basis of UN Security Council Resolution 242, a call that was later regarded as “the Historic Compromise,” particularly because it no longer questioned the legitimacy of the State of Israel.

1987 – Israel at Eurovision

By Georgie Levine (Bogeret, Rosh, Incoming Movement Worker 5778-9)

Israel competed in the 32nd Eurovision Song contest in Brussels, Belgium. The entry by the ‘Lazy Bums,’ a comedic duo consisting of Avi Kushnir and Natan Datner dressed in black suits and ties, with black sunglasses shading their eyes, emanating a Blues Brothers style. They sang the very catchy song ‘Shir Habatlanim’ (The Bum’s Song) and came 8th, scoring 73 points for Israel. They gave a synchronised performance, singing, dancing and flailing around the stage, singing out the daily life of an ‘idle loafer,’ unemployed and generally living his life in a lazy manner. Accompanied by a minimalist orchestra, the scoring shows Israel’s huge success in the contest with the ability to create an entertaining performance, with an unforgettable chorus.

1986 – Attack foiled

By Josh Ezekiel (Boger and Madrich)

On the 16th of April 1986, a terrorist attack on Israel was foiled. Working with members of the Syrian embassy in London, Jordanian Nizar Hindawi had secretly planted a bomb in the bag of his fiance Anne-Marie Murphy while helping her pack for her flight from London to Israel, where he had told her they would be married. The bomb was discovered by an El Al security officer during their examination of her bag. This event is of great significance to me, as it represents the fact that even though Israel was beginning to truly establish herself as a nation on the world stage, the threat of violence to her citizens was still very real. This represents the continuous problem of the dichotomy that exists between these two opposing ideologies, (of the Israelis and their Arab neighbours) which allows for such actions to be justified in the eyes of the perpetrators.

1985 – HaBonim train disaster

By Jojo Moss (Boger and Madrich)

On 11th June 1985, near Moshav HaBonim south of Haifa, a train crashed at 60 mph into a bus of 7th grade schoolchildren on a trip from Y. H. Brenner middle school in Petach Tikva, killing 22 people (19 students, a teacher, a parent and the bus driver).

The accident occurred just a mile from the western beach. The second of four buses failed to cross the dirt road at the railway crossing, and the train engineer did not manage to stop the train in time.

A committee headed by Judge Ezra Kama suggested barriers and better signs at train crossings.

Two weeks after the accident, Yitzchak Peretz (a government minister from Shas) said the accident may have been due to breaking Shabbat in Petach Tikva and invalid mezuzot in the school. Outraged parents tried unsuccessfully to have Prime Minister Shimon Peres sack him.

1984 – Operation Moses

By Shanie Earl (Bogeret and Madricha)

In November 1984, the first group of Ethiopian Jews arrived in Israel through ‘Operation Moses’. This operation facilitated the undercover evacuation of Ethiopian Jewish individuals from Sudan during the civil war that was occurring at the time. Its aim was to help this community to escape hardship and introduce them to new lives in the modern State of Israel.

The Ethiopian Jewish people, who refer to themselves as Beta Israel, were discovered by European explorers in the 19th century. They are widely considered to be one of the greatest mysteries surrounding Jewish history, and several theories exist regarding their origins. For centuries, they lived in isolation from the rest of the Jewish world; nevertheless, they always had hope that one day they would be able to arrive in the land of Israel.

Operation Moses was instigated due to the Israeli cabinet hearing accounts of the persecution of the Jews in Sudanese refugee camps and devising the idea of an airlift to bring them to Israel. This commenced on the 21st November 1984 and consisted of several flights over a period of seven weeks, bringing approximately 200 Ethiopian Jews at a time to the Holy Land. In total, almost 8,000 Ethiopian Jews were transported from Sudan to Israel.

Prior to Operation Moses, fewer than 250 Ethiopian Jews resided in Israel. This number has developed into a population of more than 121,000 today, thus proving the colossal impact of this event in Israeli history as this figure largely comprises the descendants of those directly involved in the operation.

However, despite the ‘Ethiopian Jews’ almost always being viewed as one collective group, it is important to consider that each and every one of them has a unique story of their transition to Israel and that their lives have been affected in different ways.
One must not forget that the majority of the members of Beta Israel have had to overcome obstacles in order to assimilate into Israeli Jewish society. Many are still facing difficulties with fully integrating, and I strongly admire the courage and resilience they have maintained and currently still uphold.

Nevertheless, there is great hope in Israel that the Ethiopian community will feel increasingly confident and at home in the Jewish state, whilst simultaneously retaining the heritage they brought from centuries of Jewish life in Ethiopia. Over the past few decades, Ethiopian culture has become progressively understood and cherished in Israel and, had Operation Moses (and the later operations Joshua and Solomon) not occurred, the country would not be the same place as it is today.

1983 – The end of an era

By Ava Sharpe (Bogeret and Madricha)

The Political Legacy of Menachem Begin

Following a resounding political career as Israeli Prime Minister from 1977, 1983 saw the end of an era for Zionist leader Menachem Begin. After commanding the militant paramilitary group Irgun Zvai Leumi from 1943-8, Begin formed the Herut ‘Freedom’ Party and became the official leader of the opposition in the Knesset until 1967, before becoming joint chairman of the Likud coalition in 1973. Following a Likud victory in 1977, it was down to Begin to form a government.
The contemporary question remains as to the nature of Begin’s political legacy, not only to native Israelis, but Jews in the diaspora. Begin is perhaps best known for his dogmatic, uncompromising stance on the question of occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip following the Arab-Israeli War of 1967 and the 1982 government mounted invasion of Lebanon in an effort to oust the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) from its bases there. However, Begin’s peacemaking efforts cannot be understated in the formation of the diplomatic values underpinning the modern Jewish state. Begin negotiated with President Anwar el-Sādāt of Egypt for peace in the Middle East, and the agreements they reached, known as the Camp David Accords (September 17, 1978), led directly to a peace treaty between Israel and Egypt that was signed on March 26, 1979. Under the terms of the treaty, Israel returned the Sinai Peninsula, which it had occupied since the 1967 war, to Egypt in exchange for full diplomatic recognition. Begin and Sādāt were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1978. However, Israel’s continuing involvement in Lebanon, and the death of Begin’s wife in November 1982, were most likely among the factors prompting him to resign from office in October 1983. Peacemaker or terrorist- it remains of astute importance that the critical issues surrounding the legacy of contentious Israeli political figures truly remains at the forefront of contemporary nuanced Zionist education.

1982 – Yehuda Amichai wins the Israel Prize for Hebrew Poetry

By Hannah Kashman (Mazkira)

Yehuda Amichai (1924 – 2000) is regarded by many, both in Israel and internationally, as Israel’s greatest modern poet. His contribution to Israeli culture was formally recognised when he received the Israel Prize for Hebrew poetry in 1982, the most prestigious honour the country can bestow upon a citizen.  The prize citation read, in part: ‘Through his synthesis of the poetic with the everyday, Yehuda Amichai affected a revolutionary change in both the subject matter and the language of poetry.’

While leading Roshim training last summer I was lucky enough to be taken on a Tour of the Old City of Jerusalem by Robin Moss of the UJIA. It would be nice, I thought, but I had walked round the Old City dozens of times already with many a tour guide. I wasn’t sure if I was going to learn anything new or exciting. Oh how wrong I was! For the next hour or so, Robin led us through the streets of Jerusalem using the poems of Amichai as a means to guide us. I was enchanted by this innovative method and through the words of the poet, transported to different imaginings of the Holy City. I came away seeing Jerusalem in a new light with a heightened appreciation for Amichai’s poems. If you haven’t read a poem by Yehuda Amichai I urge you to go and do so right now – go, go go!