Interfaith Lunch & Learn: Micha Feldmann on the Ethiopian Exodus
On March 3, the Indiana Interchurch Center, the Jewish Federation of Greater Indianapolis and the Center for Interfaith Cooperation hosted a talk by Micha Feldmann, one of the chief architects of the massive migration of Ethiopian Jews to Israel in the 1980s and early 1990s.
Since 1970 Micha Feldmann has been aiding the immigration and absorption process in Israel. Since 1982 he has devoted his life to bringing the Ethiopian Jews to Israel and helping them in their integration into Israeli society.
Prior to “Operation Solomon” in 1991, Micha was the head of the Jewish Agency for Israel mission to Ethiopia and the Israeli consul there. He was one of the chief architects of the operation, which succeeded in bringing 14,310 Ethiopian Jews out of besieged Addis Ababa in one weekend.
Micha is recognized as a national hero in Israel and is one of the legendary Jews of our time. Today he has a pivotal role in the continuing integration of Ethiopians, along with new immigrants from France, Argentina, the Former Soviet Union and other countries coming to Israel each year seeking a better life.
He’s a masterful story-teller, and the stories Micha told were full of tragedy, hope, and hard work Jews first began the difficult trek across Sudan to Israel in the 1960s and 1970s. Once the Ethiopian Jewish community was ruled to be fully Jewish, the Israeli government began the laborious process of bringing them to Israel. This meant working in a country that was wracked by civil war and famine, and with an Ethiopian government that did not recognize the government of Israel.
Getting the Jews out of Ethiopia was only part of the struggle. Helping them overcome culture shock and post-traumatic stress, racism and homesickness has been Micha’s main job since then. Micha speaks Amharic fluently and knows virtually every Ethiopian family in Israel. He is therefore known as “Abba (Father) Micha”.
We were fortunate to have Bill Rasdell attend the Lunch & Learn. Bill is a photographer who has a splendid project called “Beta Israel,” documenting the lives of Ethiopian Jews in Israel.