Pnina Tamano-Shata was three when she came to Israel as part of the first wave of the evacuation of Ethiopian Jews in the early 1980s dubbed Operation Moses under the leadership of the late Menachem Begin. The second wave nicknamed Operation Solomon continued in the 1990s.
Thirty-six years later, Tamano-Shata becomes the first Ethiopian-born minister in Israel’s history after her appointment was made known to her by incoming Prime Minister, Benny Gantz.
Tamano-Shata, her father and five brothers were among nearly 7000 Ethiopian Jews evacuated to Israel, fleeing persecution for their identification with Judaism between November 1984 and January 1985.
According to The Jerusalem Post, Tamano-Shata will serve as minister of immigrant absorption.
In recent times, Africa’s Jews made headlines with regards to the problems they face in the Jewish state of Israel. These black men and women have accused Israel of racial discrimination, lack of economic opportunities among others.
“For me, this is a landmark and the closing of a circle,” Tamano-Shata told Israeli newspaper Maariv, reports British Broadcaster, BBC.
When civil war broke in Ethiopia in 1974, it held the worst consequences for the group of people who have always been collateral damage. Ethiopia’s surrounding countries, including Sudan, Somalia, Kenya, Eritrea, and Djibouti, in fairness, were not good options for the Ethiopian Jews.
Israel then began covert operations at the beginning of the 1980s to rescue them. The mass exodus of Ethiopian Jews to Israel over two decades was on a massive scale, seeing tens of thousands either rescued by Israel or migrating by themselves.
Despite the persecution, many of the Ethiopian Jews remained faithful to the Torah and to the Land of Israel and realized the longstanding dream of coming to Israel because of their faith.
From that three-year-old girl, when Tamano-Shata immigrated to Israel without a mother on a cross-desert foot journey, through growing up in Israel and the struggles she “led and I am still leading for the community, integration, the acceptance of the other, and against discrimination and racism.”