ethiopian child 298.88.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
All remaining Ethiopians eligible to make aliya will be in Israel within a year, according to Ori Konforti, a senior Jewish Agency official in Ethiopia. "Within a year, give or take a month, all Israeli government and JAFI operations in Ethiopia will end," he told The Jerusalem Post this week.
He was speaking to the largest delegation of Diaspora Jews to ever visit the East African country.
According to recommendations made by the 1999 Efrati census of Falash Mura - Ethiopian Jews whose ancestors were forced to convert to Christianity - 4,991 people eligible to make aliya under the Law of Entry remain in the country. The law was amended to let them make aliya and receive oleh benefits even though they are not recognized as Jews.
Konforti told the visiting 170 Jewish communal professionals and lay leaders from more than 48 Jewish Federations across North America: "1,816 Falash Mura already have official permission to emigrate. A further 2,301 are expected to receive their assurances by the Jewish High Holidays."
The remaining 874 people listed by the Interior Ministry as eligible have not been located, he said, adding that some may have already made the move under an alternative name, passed away or moved to a third country.
"The Interior Ministry is working on overdrive to prepare the necessary permits before the High Holidays," he said.
He said priority was being given to families with school-age children, with the aim of bringing them to Israel before the start of the new school year on September 1. "Ninety percent of the Falash Mura children will be in Israel by December 2007," he said.
However, as the official Israeli operation prepares to wind down, agencies operating in the area and Ethiopian groups say that thousands more people claiming to be Falash Mura - either via relatives already in Israel or through ancestors - remain in Ethiopia and dream of moving to Israel.
Oded Salomon, director-general of aliya and absorption for the Jewish Agency, who was also on the mission, told the Post, "The Israeli government has determined who is eligible. Whoever is not on that list, I hope, will continue to be supported by other humanitarian operations."