Israel to Accelerate Falashmura Immigration From Ethiopia, Ending 30-year Operation

Some 2,000 Ethiopian immigrants to arrive by March 2014, according to the agreement.

The Israeli government decided on Sunday to accelerate the immigration of some 2,000 Falashmura, bringing a close to a 30-year effort of organized immigration from Ethiopia.

The move, which was agreed to by the government and organizations supporting immigration from Ethiopia, will accelerate the process for the final group of immigration candidates, bringing them to Israel by the end of March 2014.

Two years ago, following calls from Israeli and U.S. organizations supporting Falashmura immigration to Israel, the government agreed to review the cases of 8,000 candidates in Ethiopian transfer camps. The review resulted in approving the request for some 6,000 people, 4,000 of which have since reached Israel.

Falashmura is the name given to members of the Jewish community in Ethiopia who converted to Christianity under pressure from the mission during the 19th century and the 20th century.

A public committee working on behalf of the remaining Jewish community in Ethiopia recently criticized the rate of immigration, which dropped from 250 people a month to between 110 and 170. Last February, the Knesset Committee for Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs, also criticized the government for the reduced rate of immigration, which led to Sunday's decision.

In order to increase the rate, the Ibim Absorption Center near Sderot will reopen, at the cost of NIS 17 million. "We must act to bring all the Falashmura to Israel and close the Gondar camp as soon as possible," said Harel Locker, director-general of the Prime Minister's Office.