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

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President Peres:

“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 paid tribute to President Bush Sr. his role in Operation Moses:

“United States Air Force planes took part in the modern day exodus. When those planes arrived I stood on the runway with tears in my eyes, it was an emotional moment, rare and historic.”

The President of the State of Israel, Shimon Peres, laid a wreath and delivered remarks this morning, Wednesday 8th May, 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.”

ethopian_ceremony

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 President Bush Sr who served as Vice President of the United States during Operation Moses. President Bush Sr. had accepted President Peres’ request (who was Prime Minister at the time) to help save the lives of the immigrants; “President Bush Sr, who was visiting Israel at the time as Vice President, 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.”

Photo Credit: Mark Neyman/GPO

Video Footage: Available via the GPO FTP server

For additional information:

Ayelet Frish – Spokesperson and Media Adviser to the President of Israel– 0506205111

Yair Zivan – International Media Coordinator, Office of the President of Israel – (00972) 0523450061

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