Hundreds of Ethiopian immigrants arrived on Thursday to a festive ceremony at Israel's international airport, as the government took a step toward carrying out its pledge to reunite hundreds of families split between the two countries.
Some 300 people landed on the Ethiopian Airlines flight, with many waving flags or stopping to kiss the ground as they streamed off the aircraft onto a red carpet. Many were dressed in traditional Ethiopian robes, and many women held babies in their arms. Festive Hebrew songs were blasted over loudspeakers.
Although the families are of Jewish descent and many are practicing Jews, Israel does not consider them Jewish under religious law. Instead, they were permitted to enter the country under a family-unification program that requires special government approval.