Government delays Aliyah of Ethiopian Jews

Eight thousand Ethiopian Jews
residing in Addis Ababa and Gondar, some of whose families have already immigrated to Israel, are still waiting for the government to reach a decision regarding their immigration (Aliyah) to Israel after government representatives failed to prepare an plan suggesting a solution to their situation.

 



 

Last week a special ministerial committee meeting which had been scheduled in April was supposed to vote on a plan on the matter of bringing Ethiopian Jews to Israel.

 


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Gondar 's Ethiopian Jews  (Photo: Nati Marcus)

Gondar ‘s Ethiopian Jews (Photo: Nati Marcus)

 

However, representatives from the Prime Minister’s Office representatives showed up at the meeting without any plan. Instead, a campaign meant to apply pressure on ministers not to support immigration of Ethiopian Jews to Israel was launched on the evening of the vote.

 

A position paper distributed by the Liba Yehudit organization—established in 2013 to strengthen Israel’s Jewish identity—was sent to the ministers saying immigration of Ethiopian Jews cannot be approved since they are not Jews according to the Halacha (Jewish law).

 

“We are following with concern the tremendous, baseless and unreasonable pressure applied to enable additional groups from Ethiopia claiming they are of Jewish descent to immigrate to Israel,” it was said in the position paper.

 

“The propaganda to move those groups (to Israel) is administrated by organizations funded by foreign sources with unknown agendas,” the Liba Yehudit organization claimed.

 

An additional document presented as part of the campaign was a position paper allegedly signed by four Keses (spiritual leaders of Ethiopian Jews) who oppose the Aliyah of Ethiopian Jews to Israel. However, Kes Avihu Azaria admitted he had not given his consent to signing the document.

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Addis Ababa's Ethiopian Jews  (Photo: AFP)

Addis Ababa’s Ethiopian Jews (Photo: AFP)

 

“I have not seen the letter (allegedly signed by the keses not to allow the Aliyah of Ethiopian Jews). I know nothing about the letter and it doesn’t reflect my opinions,” the kes stated.

 

According to government officials, Eli Groner, the outgoing director-general of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office and his staff are responsible for the delay in the decision on the matter.

 

Administration of Border Crossings, Population, and Immigration Director General Shlomo Mor-Yosef said during the State Control Committee meeting that more than 70 percent of those who wait to emigrate from Ethiopia to Israel have first-degree relatives in Israel and that some 7,691 people are entitled to immigrate before an initial review of the matter.

 

Ethiopian Jews (Photo: Nitzan Hafner)

Ethiopian Jews (Photo: Nitzan Hafner)

 

At least 1,500 of those entitled to make Aliyah have been separated from their parents or children.

 

The Interior Ministry has decided the Law of Return does not apply to Ethiopian Jews due to suspicions that they willingly converted to Christianity after suffering persecution during the last century and later returned to Judaism.

 

The director general of the Prime Minister’s Office decided five days before the ministerial committee meeting to hold limited talks with the attendance of the relevant ministers—Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked,
Minister of Absorption and Immigration Sofa Landver, and Economy Minister Eli Cohen.

 

Deputy ministers represented the Interior Ministry and Finance Ministry.

 

Bar Harari, an activist in the campaign to bring Ethiopian Jews to Israel described the matter as “a sever injustice.”

 

“When the meeting was postponed I had to tell the families their children would remain in Ethiopia. The official reason for the meeting being delayed was to enable MK David Amsalem and MK Avraham Neguise (Likud) to take part in the next meeting,” Harari said.

 

MK Avraham Neguise  (Photo: Gil Yohanan)

MK Avraham Neguise (Photo: Gil Yohanan)

 

“Since the 2019 budget was already approved, every budgetary decision has to be validated by the government meeting,” the activist went on to say.

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“But, if the Prime Minister’s Office had wanted to promote the matter, they would have prepared a plan and approved it with the prime minister a day before the (ministerial committee) meeting,” he opined.

 

Many of those who oppose a plan to bring the Ethiopians in question to Israel argue that all decisions on the matter were already implemented and that the last of the Ethiopian Jews have already immigrated to Israel.

 

However, according to provision 5 in the government’s 716 resolution submitted in 2015 it was noted that, “The possibility of allowing second-degree relatives (of Ethiopian Jews who already immigrated to Israel) to make Aliyah, and budget aspects among others will be reviewed.”

 

Ethiopians protesting in front of the Knesset, calling for the government to permit their family into Israel (Photo: AFP)

Ethiopians protesting in front of the Knesset, calling for the government to permit their family into Israel (Photo: AFP)

 

“The team (reviewing the matter) will recommend to the government how to prevent further separation of those who were allowed to immigrate (to Israel) from the rest of the family (left in Ethiopia).” The review has yet to be carried out.

 

MK Neguise decried the failure to draw up a plan. “The government hides behind a variety of excuses. The resolution (716) has not been implemented!” he said.

 

“The minister of interior wrote a letter a few months ago asking to authorize bringing an additional 1,000 (Ethiopian Jews) this year, and the Prime Minister’s Office is stalling the matter,” the MK explained.

 

The Knesset’s State Comptroller Committee convened a meeting on Monday during which the state comptroller presented his point of view on the matter of implementing the government’s decision regarding the immigration of Ethiopian Jews to Israel.

 

The Prime Minister’s Office issued a statement saying, “The ministerial committee for the advancement of the integration of Israeli citizens of Ethiopian origin into Israeli society discussed the matter of family unification of the Addis Ababa and Gondar (Falash Mura) communities.

 

“It has been decided that prior to reaching a resolution (on the matter) further discussion will be held,” the statement said.

 

 

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