“We wait in hope for the Lord;
he is our help and our shield.”—Psalm 33:20
Hanok was only ten when he, his mother, and two brothers left their rural village and set out for Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capitol. Belonging to the Beta Israel, “House of Israel,” as the Ethiopian Jews called themselves, Hanok and his family dreamed of one day immigrating to Israel.
For seven years, they lived in a refugee camp. Conditions in the camp were horrendous, with cramped living conditions, inadequate medical attention, and a lack of other basic necessities, such as food and clothing. Still they waited, hopeful for the day when they would be able to board a plane bound for Israel, hopeful that God would hear their prayers and bring them home to the Promised Land.
For Hanok and his brother, Tadasa, that prayer was answered, their dream realized, when the two received word that they were cleared for immigration by the Ethiopian government. With the help of The Fellowship’s On Wings of Eagles program, which brings needy Jews from the four corners of the earth to Israel, the two boarded a plane to begin their new life in the Holy Land.
It was a bittersweet occasion for the brothers. Because of government restrictions, their mother and other brother were prevented from joining them. Even more tragic, Hanok’s mother was one of hundreds of Ethiopian Jews who died in the refugee camps while waiting for their opportunity. Hanok does not know what has happened to his other brother.
Through the efforts of the Israeli government and organizations like the Jewish Agency for Israel and The Fellowship, the final group of Ethiopian Jews have been cleared to make aliyah (immigrate to Israel). Over the next three years, they will make this historical – and biblical — trip to a land that many have only dreamed about or read about in Bible stories.
For all, it will mean reuniting with family members who already have made aliyah to Israel. It will mean seeing children, parents, and grandparents after years of separation. It will mean that their years of waiting in hope will have been fulfilled — just as God promised.
Undoubtedly, the story of the Ethiopian Jews is historical and prophetic; but it is also inspirational. Their story is the story of God’s people throughout the ages as they waited upon the promise of God: Abraham and Sarah for a son and heir; the enslaved people of Israel for a deliverer; and countless others.
Their story is the story of answered prayer, as God is in the midst of all who wait upon Him in hope.