Netanyahu Green-lights Migration of 1,000 New Falashmura From Ethiopia to Israel

The new migrants will be accepted on the grounds that they already have children who migrated to Israel

Falashmura men at prayer in Ethiopia.
Eli Alalouf

About 1,000 Falashmura whose children are already in Israel will be allowed to immigrate, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Monday, following a decision by a ministerial committee. The announcement is the latest step in implementing long­­-delayed cabinet decisions from 2015 and 2016. That’s when the government promised to bring the remaining Falashmura to Israel, but in fact has to date brought only 1,300 of about 9,000 people who are waiting in Addis Ababa and Gondar. 

In November 2015 the cabinet decided to bring all the remaining Falashmura  —  descendants of Ethiopian Jews who converted to Christianity — to Israel within five years. But the government decision did not include a budget for its implementation. In February 2016 Eli Groner, the director general of the Prime Minister Minister’s Office, announced that the program was approved without a budgetary source and would therefore be delayed.

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The freezing of the program led to a coalition crisis, after Likud MKs Avraham Nagosa and David Amsalem  announced that they would not support the coalition during votes in the Knesset plenum. An interministerial committee was formed, which led to another cabinet decision in August 2016, when the government decided to bring 1,300 members of the community, within a year.

By the end of 2017, 326 requests of families had been approved, leading to the aliyah of 1,308 immigrants, 24 percent of them from Addis Ababa and 76 percent from Gondar. After the approval of the entry of these candidates was completed, the handling of the rest of the requests was discontinued in keeping with a government decision that froze further immigration. . According to MK Nagosa, of 8,000 Falashmura who are waiting for approval of their immigration requests, about 1,000 have children in Israel, 2,200 have parents here and 80 percent have first-degree relatives.

In response to Monday’s government decision, a group pushing for the immigration of Ethiopian Jews to Israel said: “We are happy about a decision that will put an end to the suffering of 1,000 Jews and thousands of their family members in Israel, but we are far from being satisfied with that. 

“In 2015 there was a government decision to bring all the members of the Jewish community in Ethiopia. Instead of implementing its decision, the government is spreading out the aliyah from Ethiopia based on allocations that are reminiscent of the White Paper policy [of the British Mandatory government, restricting Jewish immigration to Palestine],” said the statement from the Struggle for the Aliyah of Ethiopian Jews.

“It’s clear to everyone that if we were talking about fair-skinned Jews, they would all be boarding a plane already today and Israel would roll out a red carpet for them. This policy will lead to a situation in which this year too, thousands of Israeli families will celebrate the holidays torn apart from their brothers and sisters in Ethiopia. As long as the government continues to violate its decision and continues to tear apart families of Ethiopian origin, we will continue to struggle and demonstrate against a racist and discriminatory aliyah policy that does not exist in other countries.”