Hundreds of members of the Ethiopian community protested on Sunday in Jerusalem outside the Prime Minister's Office, demanding that Ethiopians who are awaiting confirmation of their eligibility to immigrate be brought to Israel as soon as possible, amid concerns for their safety due to the ongoing civil war in the East African country.
The protestors who shouted "Aliyah now!" and "Our brothers," were joined by Minister of Aliyah and Absorption Pnina Tamano-Shata, who attended the demonstration and even addressed protestors in Amharic with a megaphone.
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"I will not give up until the State of Israel corrects this injustice," she said. "I took on this task, which was not an election promise from a political place, and I intend to see it realized by this government."
The aliyah and interior ministers agreed last week to expedite the process to airlift thousands of Ethiopians with first-degree relatives in Israel, as the civil war in the East African country continues unabated.
The compromise struck between Aliyah and Integration Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata and Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked – who had opposed previous proposals on this matter – could mean up to 5,000 Ethiopians would be brought to Israel.
However, it remains unclear when the process to bring them to Israel would be completed, or how many of them would eventually be allowed to make aliyah.
Political sources said Monday that Tamano-Shata, who is Ethiopian-born, had been “warning that she cannot continue to be part of the government at a time when Ethiopian Jewry is being slaughtered.”
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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.
In recent days, the civil war in Ethiopia has spread to all regions of the country. In light of the escalation of the fighting, the Foreign Ministry has decided to repatriate some family members of Israeli diplomats in Ethiopia, following similar decisions by other countries, including the United States.
The Ethiopians claiming a right to emigrate to Israel are not members of Beita Israel, the distinct group of Jewish Ethiopians who existed for centuries apart from the country’s Christian population. They are mainly relatives of the Falashmura – converts to Christianity long regarded by many of the Beita Israel as renegades.