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5,000 Ethiopian Jews about to make Aliyah

Ministers decide to expedite immigration of 5,000 Ethiopian Jews

Interior Minister Shaked and Aliyah and Integration Minister Tamano-Shata are drawing up plans to bring those eligible from community of Jewish descendants in Ethiopia to Israel in coming weeks.

Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked and Aliyah and Integration Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata agreed on Tuesday to fast-track the immigration of 5,000 members of Ethiopia’s community of Jewish descendants, due to the worsening civil war in the country.

Shaked and Tamano-Shata, together with senior officials from the National Security Council and Israel’s security services, as well as officials responsible for the immigration process for this community, held a meeting on Tuesday afternoon to evaluate the security situation in the country.

The ministers stated that they have been following the unfolding events in Ethiopia with concern, and are acting to expedite the immigration of those waiting to come to Israel who have first-degree relatives in Israel and who are therefore eligible to immigrate to Israel in accordance with government Resolution 716 from 2015, which has yet to be fully implemented.

A plan to begin bringing those waiting to come to Israel is currently being drawn up, and could be implemented in the coming weeks.

Whether or not there is an immediate danger to the communities of Jewish descendants, mostly located in Addis Ababa and Gondar, is unclear.

A classified document written by one official in the National Security Council which was leaked to the media this week stated that there was no immediate danger yet.

Rebels from the Tigray Defense Forces, the armed wing of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, along with other armed groups are 200 miles from the capital, Addis Ababa, while last week Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed told Ethiopian citizens and residents of the capital to take up arms and prepare to defend their neighborhoods.

Israeli media reported on Monday that a crisis was brewing with Tamano-Shata over the continued delay in bringing Ethiopia’s remaining Jews to Israel, due to claims that she will not remain in the government if action is not taken.

And on Sunday, Haaretz revealed that earlier this year Israel had already airlifted dozens of Ethiopians out of the war-torn country, but later discovered that the Interior Ministry had “major doubts” about whether the immigrants actually had Jewish roots, even though they submitted affidavits saying they did. Moreover, the ministry found that most didn’t even come from the conflict zone as claimed, and their lives weren’t at risk at all.

Some 5,000 members of the community of Jewish descendants, formerly known as Falash Mura, remain in Ethiopia, the overwhelming majority of whom are of paternal Jewish descent.

In 2005, then-chief rabbi Shlomo Amar ruled that those in the community of matrilineal descent should be brought to Israel, but notably excluded those of patrilineal descent.

The complex history and composition of the Falash Mura community meant that when those of maternal Jewish descent were allowed to immigrate, many families were split up since some were only of paternal Jewish descent.

Those remaining immigrate to Israel under the terms of family reunification laws, not the Law of Return, since their ancestors converted to Christianity under duress at the end of the 19th century.

An additional group totaling some 5,340 people has claimed immigration rights since 2010 with the backing of the Ethiopian Jewish leadership in Israel as well as prominent, mainstream rabbis from the religious-Zionist community in Israel.

A decision on whether they will be deemed eligible for immigration to Israel has yet to be made, however, and they are not currently being considered for immigration.

Jeremy Sharon, November 9, 2021

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