Israel Set to Greenlight Final Aliyah of Ethiopia's Falashmura Community

Over 9,000 members of the Ethiopian community have been waiting for years for permission to come to Israel.

Ethiopian Falash Mura people arriving in Israel, 2008.
Tomer Appelbaum

The repatriation of the remaining members of the Ethiopian Falashmura community, who have been waiting for years to make aliyah to Israel, is expected to be approved by the cabinet in the near future.

According to a draft proposal distributed this week by Interior Minister Silvan Shalom, only those whose names appear on updated lists of people waiting in Gondar and Addis Ababa will be allowed to come to Israel. There are 9,146 names on the list.

Shalom informed the government ministries that the proposal would be brought before the cabinet in the coming days.

According to the proposal, only those who intend to convert in Israel, who left their villages before January 1, 2013 and who have been waiting in Addis Ababa or Gondar since then will be eligible to come to Israel. For a request to come to Israel to be considered, relatives in Israel must apply in the name of the individual within three months of the cabinet’s approval of the proposal.

The draft proposal states that, following the implementation of previous cabinet decisions, “it was found that many families of Ethiopian origin were left split, some in Israel and some in Ethiopia. The matter of these families, waiting for aliyah in Addis Ababa and Gondar, is unique: These are people who left their homes and villages many years ago, and while some members of their families came to Israel, after having met the conditions of the various cabinet decisions regarding the Falashmura, they remained in Addis Ababa and Gondar, living a Jewish life, with active synagogues, ritual baths, Sabbath and holiday observance, study of Hebrew and Judaism, etc.”

Like the 2010 cabinet decision, entitled “Bringing the last of the Falashmura to Israel,” this proposal also states that the next intake will conclude the aliyah from Ethiopia and “no more organized groups from Ethiopia will be brought to Israel for conversion on the claim of belonging to the Falashmura community. Further entry to Israel will be made possible on an individual basis.

The draft proposal states that when implementation begins, the NGOs in Addis Ababa and Gondar will cease operations and will not be asked to bring additional groups from Ethiopia. It also states that the Interior Ministry “will prepare for the conclusion of the checks in Israel and Ethiopia and the conclusion of responses to applicants within 18 months of passing this decision.”

Over more than two decades, successive Israeli governments have made conflicting decisions regarding the Falashmura. While the government and the Jewish Agency did not initially recognize the community’s right to come to Israel, years of pressure by community members in Israel and of rabbis and Jewish organizations in the United States, caused the state to relent. Since then, tens of thousands of Falashmura have been brought to Israel.