Israel to Let Thousands of Ethiopians Into Israel ‘Within Weeks'

The cabinet approved a plan that would allow those waiting for years to reunite with their families in Israel, following months of disagreements and amid a rapidly deteriorating situation in Ethiopia

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Israeli protesters outside the Prime Minister's Office calling to airlift relatives left in Ethiopia, in Jerusalem, in August.
Israeli protesters outside the Prime Minister's Office calling to airlift relatives left in Ethiopia, in Jerusalem, in August.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

The government decided Sunday to let thousands of Ethiopians with first-degree relatives in Israel to make aliyah, amid concerns for their safety due to the ongoing civil war in the East African country.

According to the government's decision, based on a 2015 decision that was never fully implemented, officials will begin examining the eligibility of those waiting in transit camps in Ethiopia. A committee will also be established to accelerate the review process for other applicants waiting to be evacuated.

Most of them have been waiting to be allowed into Israel for years. The decision stipulates that the process be completed "within weeks."

A joint statement by Aliyah and Integration Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata and Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked said that following "intense discussions," an agreement was reached to immediately evacuate those with first-degree relatives in Israel.

Ethiopian-born Minister Tamano-Shata, a vocal proponent of airlifting more Ethiopian Jews to Israel, said that the government is "correcting an ongoing injustice against those whose entry to Israel was approved back in 2015 but not implemented by previous governments."

Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked and Aliyah Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata in Jerusalem, in June.Credit: Emil Salman

Yaakov Hagoel, acting chairman of the Jewish Agency, said: "This government decision will put an end to the suffering of many families who will finally be reunited after years of waiting to make aliyah.”

Tamano-Shata reached a compromise deal earlier this month with Shaked – who had opposed previous proposals on the matter – to expedite the evacuation of thousands of Ethiopians with immediate family in Israel.

Earlier this month, political sources said that Tamano-Shata had been “warning that she cannot continue to be part of the government at a time when Ethiopian Jewry is being slaughtered.”

Minister Shaked had opposed the move to let the group of Ethiopians into Israel, claiming that most of the newly arrived Ethiopian immigrants are not Jewish, and that the lives of those still in Ethiopia are not in real danger.

Her claims came in light of an investigation conducted by the Population and Immigration Authority about the arrival of 61 Ethiopian migrants this year, which cast “major doubts” over both their heritage and the risks they faced.

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