At the age of 16, Shlomo Molla left his small Jewish Ethiopian village by foot and traveled over 400 miles through the Ethiopian jungles and Sudanese desert in hopes of reaching Israel. "I left my village with nothing. I had no shoes. I had very little water and not enough food, but I had faith in God," said Molla to congregants at Ebenezer Baptist Church Sunday morning. "From the moment we were born we were told Israel is the Holy Land, the Promised Land for the Jews."
MK Molla visited Atlanta this week to share his harrowing tale of coming to Israel and his triumphant accomplishments in his new homeland. Shlomo Molla evaded gun fire (his best friend was killed by Sudanese troops) and survived three months in a Sudanese prison before being rescued from a refugee camp by Israeli commandos in a top secret midnight Mossad operation.
"I had never seen a car before. I had never seen an airplane before! A group of us were taken from the refugee camp in the middle of the night to a big field. Suddenly a white man broke a stick and made light. We thought he had fire in his hand. We thought he was crazy. Next thing we know Paratroops start to fall from the sky and a big bird comes from the sky and lands in the field. It wasn't until we were on board the airplane that the commandos revealed themselves as Israeli soldiers. We were told we were being taken to Israel," said Molla.
MK Molla shared these types of details to Christian, Jewish and African American groups throughout the Atlanta area. Audience members at all the events were shocked to hear his story and deeply inspired by his successes.
"After arriving in Israel I went to an Ethiopian Absorption center. I went to Jewish High School and then University. I was the first one of my family to be educated!" cheered Molla. MK Molla continued his career with the Jewish Agency before running for the Knesset. Molla became a Member of the Knesset and the first member of the Ethiopian Israeli Community to serve as Deputy Speaker. Today, MK Molla is a staunch advocate for immigrant rights, social justice, equality and pluralism in Israel.
"Today I come to you not to make P.R. for the Israeli government, but to make P.R. for the Israeli people," Molla told an audience at the Jewish Federation. "Israel is a great society. We are a democracy. We believe in equal rights. We have the same values as the people of the United States."
Molla also spoke about the challenges facing Israel's Ethiopian Jewish population today. There are about 2500 Ethiopian Jews still trying to immigrate to Israel. The Jewish Federations of North America and the Jewish Agency are raising millions of dollars to help bring these Jews to Israel.
"The older generation of Ethiopian Jews coming to Israel have a hard time assimilating, but we are seeing much progress in the second and third generations" said Molla. Thousands of young Ethiopians are now graduating university and entering the professional work force in Israel, but Molla says it is not enough.
MK Molla's visit was sponsored by the American Israel Friendship League and the Consulate General of Israel to the Southeast.
Shlomo Molla MK - Short Bio.pdf