Within four weeks, the government will approve the immigration of 1,000 Ethiopians residing in Gondar and Addis Ababa, the Interior Ministry and the Prime Minister’s Office told the State Control Committee on Monday.
Director-General of the Interior Ministry’s Population and Immigration Authority Shlomo Mor-Yosef and Deputy Director-General of the Prime Minister’s Office Udi Praver said they submitted an urgent request to the Government Secretariat to discuss the matter at a cabinet meeting.
They informed the Chairman of the State Control Committee MK Shelly Yacimovich (Zionist Union) that the approval would be given within four weeks for funds for the aliyah to be included in the 2018 budget.
In 2017, 1,308 Ethiopians immigrated to Israel, in accordance with the latest cabinet decisions on the issue, which stated that up to 9,000 Ethiopians could be brought to Israel by the end of 2020. A new cabinet decision is needed to allow for continued aliyah from Ethiopia this year.
The group of Ethiopians waiting to immigrate are known as known as Falash Mura, the name given to those members of the Beta Israel community in Ethiopia and Eritrea who – under compulsion and pressure from missionaries – converted to Christianity during the 19th and 20th centuries.
Since their ancestors converted to another religion, they are not covered by the Law of Return, which grants the right to immigrate to Israel and gain citizenship to anyone with a Jewish grandparent. Instead they are brought according to the Law of Entry and are required to convert to Judaism once they are in Israel.
In attendance at Monday’s meeting were Israelis of Ethiopian origin who are serving in the IDF while their siblings remain in Ethiopia having waited many years, at transit camps in Gondar and Addis Ababa, for approval to immigrate to Israel.
Mor-Yosef said that of the 1,000 people who have been approved are only parents of those who are already in Israel, while siblings have not been included in the quota.
Yacimovich noted that even the approval of the 1,000 immigrants was done under heavy pressure she exerted together with MKs David Amsalem, Eli Alalouf, Avraham Neguise and Meir Cohen.
The question remained, she said, why the other 6,000 Ethiopians waiting for aliyah are subjected to this ongoing “torture.”
“This is not a budget issue, but rather a values issue,” she remarked. “There are many elements in the government that are not interested in bringing them because they do not see them as Jews, while no one is rummaging through the tzitzit of immigrants from other countries.”
Yacimovich added that the committee will continue to monitor the matter closely.
Advocacy group the Struggle for Ethiopian Aliyah highlighted that 1,000 is only a fraction of the number still waiting in Ethiopia.
“Furthermore, tomorrow will be the first voting on the 2019 budget and the immigration for next year is not in the budget readings and no decision regarding 2019 was brought forward today, the group said in statement. “We are not satisfied with the status of the issue and will go to protest on March 12, along with a solidarity event in the Jewish community in Addis and Gondar.”
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