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April 29, 2020 12:14 pm

Ethiopian-Israeli Soldiers Receive Independence Day Letters From Relatives Left Behind

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

Members of the Ethiopian Jewish community in Israel dance during a ceremony marking the holiday of Sigd in Jerusalem, Nov. 11, 2015. Photo: Reuters / Amir Cohen.

Ethiopian-Israeli IDF soldiers received a pleasant and moving surprise on Independence Day this year, with relatives left behind in Ethiopia writing them letters marking the occasion.

Ethiopian Jews largely came in a wave of aliyah in the 1980s and 90s, and now serve across all levels of the IDF. Many of their relatives, however, remained in the old country, often in refugee camps.

Some of the letters were shared with the Israeli news site N12, and they show a strong emotional attachment to the State of Israel and to their relatives who serve in its army.

One letter reads, “Dear soldiers, you are sacrificing your lives for the people of Israel and your homeland. May the Lord keep you safe.”

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“We will remember the fallen, we will continue to pray for the recovery of the wounded, and you will continue to fight for Israel’s independence,” it added.

Another says, “You the soldiers, thanks to you there is independence for Israel. You live in a difficult reality, but you do everything for us and your country. We are so proud of you!”

One soldier who received a letter, Etznafi Ambiyah — now serving in the Golani Brigade — said, “It was so exciting to receive the letters. For 13 years now I have been waiting for my family members remaining in the [refugee] camps to make aliyah one day.”

“These letters reminded me of my childhood in the camp,” he said.

“We expected and prayed to make aliyah to Israel so much,” Ambiyah recalled of life in the camps. “As a child, I dreamed of becoming an IDF soldier and wearing the uniform.”

He said of his relatives, “It’s time to bring them here on aliyah and realize their dream of being fighters in the IDF like me. But only in the Golani Brigade.”

“I wish all the people of Israel and all those waiting in the camps a happy Independence Day,” he added. “The young people who sent me the letter gave me the happiest Independence Day ever.”

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