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Israel Approves Airlifting 400 More Ethiopian Jews to Israel

02-10-2020
Thousands of Ethiopian Jews gather to for the holiday of Sigd, in Jerusalem. Photo: Jonathan Goff
Thousands of Ethiopian Jews gather to for the holiday of Sigd, in Jerusalem. Photo: Jonathan Goff

JERUSALEM, Israel – Approximately 400 Ethiopian Jews are about to find their new homes in Israel.

The move came after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet on Sunday approved the relocation of hundreds of Ethiopian Jews to their biblical homeland.

“I am proud of the fact that as prime minister, I have had the privilege of bringing thousands of our brothers and sisters from Ethiopia, and we intend – of course – to continue doing this,” Netanyahu said in a cabinet meeting.

Netanyahu vowed to help the Ethiopian immigrants successfully assimilate into Israeli society and combat all “expressions of racism” they may face. 

Aliyah and Absorption Minister Yoav Galant told government ministers “around 40 years ago, as a commando, I had the privilege of helping to bring the first Ethiopian Olim (immigrants) from the Sudanese coast.

“Today, as Aliyah and Absorption Minister, we are working to bring the remaining Falash Mura, who have been waiting in Ethiopia, due to the elections process, for a year already. There are 398 people waiting for nothing in Addis Ababa and Gondar when they could be sitting today in absorption centers in the State of Israel,” Galant said.

Falash Mura is the term given to Ethiopian Jews whose ancestors converted to Christianity, many by force, during the 19th and 20th centuries. Since the Falash Mura converted to Christianity, Israel’s Interior Ministry does not consider them to be Jewish and they are excluded from the Law of Return.

If the Falash Mura want to return to Israel, they must get special permission from the government.  

The Campaign for Ethiopian Jews’ Aliya said in a statement it welcomes the cabinet’s decision but it is “not satisfied with a small, limited amount of immigrants.”

“It is absurd that immigrating 400 Jews from Ethiopia is a difficult and complicated procedure, while in Eastern Europe thousands of people immigrate every month without careful scrutiny,” the statement said, as reported by Israeli media.

The Israeli government in 2018 approved a plan to allow 1,000 Falash Mura to return to the Jewish State. There are an estimated 8,000 members of the Falash Mura community still living in Ethiopia. 

The Campaign for Ethiopian Jews’ Aliya said only 600 have been brought back to Israel “so in practice, this is just the continuation of an existing decision.”

The group also urged Netanyahu’s government to fulfill his 2015 promise to bring all Ethiopian Jews in Addis Ababa and Gondar to Israel.

Today, about 140,000 Ethiopian Jews are living in Israel.

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