Jewish Agency calls on Israeli gov’t to expedite Falash Mura immigration from Ethiopia
Thursday 28/February/2019 - 10:47 AM
The Jewish Agency has called on the government to expedite the immigration to Israel of some 8،000 members of the so-called Falash Mura community of descendants of Jews in Ethiopia، and has established a committee to recommend policy for this goal، the Jerusalem post reported.
The committee is now evaluating whether the agency would restart operations in Ethiopia، specifically to provide health and humanitarian assistance to this community، as well as educational and training initiatives، but no decision has yet been made to fund such activities.
A professional team from the agency is expected to leave for Ethiopia in March to examine the issue on the ground، and a decision on whether to restart funding will then be made.
The new committee convened for the first time on Tuesday and called for the government to fully implement government resolution 716 from 2015، which determined then to bring all remaining 9،300 members of the community from Ethiopia to Israel.
Since that time، only 1،300 arrived during 2016، and the immigration process has stalled.
Last year، the government approved the immigration of another 1،000 members of the community، the first 83 of whom arrived earlier this month.
The agency’s decision on Tuesday urged the government to allocate sufficient funds to bring the remaining 8،000 people to Israel “in a timely manner."
The new committee will begin drawing up policies to push the government toward the expedited immigration of those who remain، provide for the humanitarian needs of those still in Addis Ababa and Gondar، and assist with the integration of the new immigrants into Israeli society. Immigrants often face severe difficulties in their transition from Ethiopian to Israeli society.
ACCORDING TO a new report by David Breakstone، deputy chairman of the agency’s executive and chairman of the new committee، the overwhelming majority of the 8،000 who remain live in “conditions of abject poverty، with mounting health and welfare needs” that are not being met.
Breakstone’s report notes that the agency، the Joint Distribution Committee and the North American Conference on Ethiopian Jewry have all ended their direct engagement with the community in Ethiopia over the last several years، although the conference continues to provide some funding through a separate NGO.
The Falash Mura do not have the right to citizenship under the Law of Return، since their ancestors converted to Christianity – even though it was under duress. Instead، they are granted citizenship under the Law of Entry at the discretion of the interior minister، mostly for family reunification.
They are required to convert to Judaism upon entry into Israel.
Significant opposition to any further immigration of the Falash Mura has developed in certain circles، including the conservative wing of the National Religious community and elements in the Beta Israel Ethiopian Jewish community، pointing out that those who remain are descendants of Jews on their father’s side، not their mother’s side، and therefore questioning their connection to Judaism.