Waving Israeli flags as they came down the steps of the aircraft, over 300 members of Ethiopia’s Jewish community arrived in Israel on Thursday in a special airlift from Gondar headed by Absorption and Immigration Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata.

The celebratory arrival, attended by several of Israel’s leaders, marked the opening phase of a plan to bring some 2,000 members of the community to Israel from Ethiopia in what has been dubbed Operation Tzur Israel.

Critics have urged the government to speed the arrival of all 2,000, as well as thousands more community members estimated to be waiting to emigrate from the war-torn country.

The first of the 316 immigrants to emerge from the Ethiopian Airlines jet led a young girl with one hand and with his other blew a ram’s horn, or shofar, that in Jewish tradition is used to signal a moment of redemption.

Some of the passengers kissed the ground as soon as they reached the tarmac, another tradition for those arriving for their first time in the Holy Land. Many were dressed in traditional Ethiopian robes, and many women held babies in their arms. Festive Hebrew songs were blasted over loudspeakers.

Read More: Times of Israel

Related Articles:

Israel’s Prime Minister delivers speech to United Nations – full speech

Israel's Prime Minister Naftali Bennett addressed the United Nations General Assembly this week addressing issues such as Iran, the regional security of the Middle East. Full transcript...

Iran’s foreign minister vows to eliminate Zionism at UN’s anti-racism conference

Iran’s foreign minister told the UN's anti-racism conference that his nation’s "willpower is dedicated" to the elimination of Zionism. The UK was among 38 countries that boycotted the...

Anti-Semitic vandal defaces 17 London bus stops calling Jews ‘grey aliens’

A London man has been charged after he defaced 17 bus stops in North West London with anti-Semitic and homophobic graffiti. Nicholas Lalchan, 49, wrote, "Jews and gays are...

Instead of seeking stronger deal, UK urges Iran to comply with existing nuclear deal that has already failed

This week the UK's new Foreign Secretary, Liz Truss, met with her Iranian counterpart to discuss the Iran nuclear deal and urged the Iranian regime to return to full...

US Congress overwhelmingly passes $1 billion funding for Israel’s Iron Dome

The United States House of Representatives has overwhelmingly passed a bill to fund $1 billion to Israel's Iron Dome self-defence system after an attempt to cut funding by...

16 Month Scripture Calendar