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A Special Passenger

Miraculous Stories from Ethiopian Aliyah

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Six-year-old Benjamin, an Ethiopian immigrant who recently arrived in Israel, was born with a heart defect. There is a hole in the partition between two chambers of his heart. This defect can only be treated by an operation in a country with modern medical services. Unfortunately, Benjamin’s family has been living in a run-down transit camp in Gondar, Ethiopia for some ten years waiting to make Aliyah to Israel, and they did not have access to the medical technology there. But after Dr. Maurice Hartstein, an Israeli surgeon at Assaf Harofeh Medical Center, examined the boy during one of his trips to the transit camp, he described Benjamin as “a ticking time bomb” and started pressing for him to be brought to Israel for surgery.

Because of Benjamin’s worsening heart condition, he was given special permission to come to Israel for medical care as a special humanitarian case. He was scheduled to arrive in Israel for surgery in January, but then Ben-Gurion Airport was closed down and the operation had to be canceled.

Yet soon after, the Jewish Agency for Israel was able to make special arrangements with the exceptions committee overseeing the airport for a charter flight bringing 300 Ethiopian Jews and sponsored by the ICEJ to land at Ben-Gurion. With help from the Save a Child’s Heart organization, Benjamin was allowed to board the flight. However, the situation was complicated because Benjamin's mother had no time to complete her own Aliyah eligibility process so she could come with him.

Despite all these difficulties, Benjamin arrived on an ICEJ-sponsored flight on February 12th, accompanied by a very caring Jewish Agency representative, Shira Aman, serving as his temporary guardian. Shira made Aliyah from Ethiopia to Israel herself at age six as part of Operation Solomon. She remembers that experience quite well and helping another six-year-old in this way is completing a circle for her.

Today, Benjamin is staying at the Assaf Harofeh Hospital Children’s Home in Holon, awaiting surgery once his quarantine period is over. Shira Aman has been at his side the whole time, giving up time with her own children to see Benjamin through this journey.

Benjamin is undergoing initial examinations which will enable doctors to determine an appropriate treatment and the next steps towards his full recovery. Please keep Benjamin and his family in prayer.

Hopefully, Benjamin’s mother will soon be able to join him in Israel. Indeed, there are many more Ethiopian Jews still waiting in transit camps in Gondar and Addis Ababa for their chance to finally reach the Land of Israel and reunite with their families here.

Please consider a generous donation to help them, as well as many other Jewish families in other nations worldwide who are hoping to make Aliyah to Israel this year.


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