Baruch addressing Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir- December 1981
The Decades-old Exodus of Ethiopian Jews Teaches Us Acceptance and Diversity Today
Baruch Tegegne was born in Wozaba village in Gondar Ethiopia in 1944. In 1956, at the age of 12, Baruch Tegegne, was among the first Ethiopian Jews to travel to Israel. He attended an agricultural leadership development program in Kfar Batya and returned to Ethiopia in 1964 with hopes of applying his knowledge. Upon his return, he was quickly confronted with the reality that political instability and anti-Semitism in Ethiopia would not allow for the social or economic advancement of the Beta Yisrael (Ethiopian Jews). At the onset of the communist revolution in 1974, he escaped Ethiopia on foot via Sudan with the goal of reaching Israel.
Crossing the Sahara Desert as an undocumented refugee through Sudan, Chad and Nigeria, it took him an excruciating two years to arrive in Israel. The critical knowledge and survival skills he gained on this journey became pivotal references for the Israeli government in the rescue of the Ethiopian Jews through Sudan. He served in the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) and worked with the Mossad in the late 1970s. He personally fundraised, organized and executed evacuations of Ethiopian Jews from Sudan.
With boundless drive and unrelenting dedication, Baruch went on speaking tours, organized protests and met with dignitaries. He succeeded in the goal of having the Israeli government and World Jewry recognize Ethiopian Jews as legitimate Jews with a claim to the Right of Return to Israel. Although not directly involved, he was credited with raising the awareness that led to Operation Moses and Operation Solomon.
Once in Israel, he worked alongside his community in absorption centers and lobbied for initiatives promoting integration within Israeli society. By dedicating his life to life to the rescue, immigration and integration of the Beta Yisrael he helped reshape the cultural landscape of Israel and the Jewish people. Baruch’s efforts have been recognized by the Israeli Government and many Jewish Institutions worldwide.
Baruch Tegegne passed away in Israel on December 27, 2010.