Next week, on Yom Yerushalayim, the Jews of Ethiopia commemorate a day of memorial for 4,000 people who lost their lives on their way through the long and treacherous deserts of Sudan to Eretz Yisrael. It is good and proper that the elders of the community and the government of Israel have decided to commemorate their actions on this date of the twenty-eighth of Iyar. Their eyes were constantly pointed in the direction of Jerusalem, and they fell on a wearying journey towards redemption with the goal-prayer " Orsalem" (Jerusalem) on their lips. I will never forget the image of a group of men and women from among the community of "Beita Yisrael" who gathered together for prayer in a shack serving as a synagogue, in a picturesque forest in the city of Addis Ababa. I visited there in the late 90's as part of my role as the head of the Conversion Authority, together with their friend and savior, Rabbi Menachem Waldman. I seem to remember that aside from the Kaisim and some intellectual youths, the prayers consisted of only a single word, which was repeated as a mantra and as an eternal goal: "Orsalem, Orsalem..."
Let us take a great leap forward from that past memory to current Israeli politics. The expansion of the coalition, changes in the leadership of the Ministry of Defense, and all of the ramifications of these events took place in part as a direct consequence of the Ethiopian situation. Likud MK's Avraham Neguise and David Amsalem threatened the Prime Minister and the coalition government, and they even refrained from taking part in some important votes in the Knesset, until a decision was made to bring another 9,000 Olim from Ethiopia, with a promise that this "will be the last group ever."