Thousands of Ethiopian Jews still stranded in Ethiopia as last flight set to land

7,500 Ethiopian Jews still stuck in the country, approximately 70% have “first-degree relatives already living in Israel.”

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July 1, 2019 18:24
3 minute read.
Thousands of Ethiopian Jews still stranded in Ethiopia as last flight set to land

Jewish immigrants from Ethiopia arrive at Ben Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv in 2011. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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A mere 14 Ethiopian Jews are aboard the last approved aliyah flight from Ethiopia, which is scheduled to land in Israel on Tuesday night.

Some 7,500 Ethiopian Jews are still living in both Gondar and Addis Ababa.

“Until a new government is formed after the September 17 elections, no new decision can be made [to bring the remaining members of the community], we have to wait,” explained A.Y. Katsof, the head of The Heart of Israel, who has dedicated his life to bringing Jews back to their homeland. “It’s really sad and it’s not understandable.”

Despite the government’s unanimous resolution 716 in 2015, under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to bring the remaining Jews of Ethiopia to Israel, the decision has been stalled over and over again with claims that it’s because of budgetary claims.

Speaking to The Jerusalem Post, Katsof said that the Jewish communities in Gondar and Addis Ababa are living in dire conditions and with pillars of the community already living in Israel, “they are falling apart.”

“When you see how they are living, with no water, no electricity, no toilets or sanitation and how they work so hard for just $1 a day,” he said. “You can’t imagine the conditions they are living in unless you see it for yourself.”

Katsof highlighted that people are dying as they wait to return to Israel.

“The whole reason Israel was built was to be a home for all Jews all over the world,” Katsof explained.

Israel “actively send to North and South America, Europe, Russia, to find Jews, some who don’t even know they are Jewish, and find a way to bring them to Israel...they get their Israeli passports and their shekels and they don’t live here, they go back to their countries.”

“The [Ethiopian Jewish community] is the only one people who are really in a situation of life and death, facing real-life danger and really need it,” he continued. “They’re the only people [who have] put a number on who can come and how many can come can come, it’s really sad.”

Asked why this issue is not at the top of the agenda, he explained that in a democratic country, politicians “are moved by what gives you more votes, what’s going to make them popular. If something won’t give you more votes, they’re not going to push it.”

He said that at this stage, he does not see a near end to the community’s plight.

Katsof said that the community’s continuous message to the Israeli government is to “bring us home.”

“We’ve been crying to come home for over 2,000 years,” he said, echoing their call. “It’s part of their culture, Jerusalem is their home.”

Katsof said that the community believes they will eventually immigrate to Israel, but the waiting “is like punishment, like torture for them.”

When asked what can be done to make bring this matter to the forefront, Katsof suggested that “bringing a famous musician to Ethiopia to do music clip with the community for all of Israel to see, [to show that] there are still people down there,” it will make the issue popular and “ministers will fight to be the first ones to bring Ethiopian Jews to Israel.”

Spokeswoman for The Struggle for Ethiopian Aliyah, Alisa Bodner, told the Post in a written statement that “the current Israeli government as well as the international Jewish community have turned their backs on the community awaiting immigration in Israel.”

She made it clear that of the 7,500 Ethiopian Jews still stuck in the country, approximately 70% have “first-degree relatives already living in Israel.”

“The policy of this current government vis-à-vis the immigration from Ethiopia is discriminatory,” Bodner said. “[It] stands in contrast to the values that the state was founded upon - equality, justice and the ingathering of the Jewish people worldwide.”

Bodner emphasized that the community awaiting immigration “will not disappear and our efforts in Israel to advance their immigration will continue and intensify, until the families are reunited and the gates to the state of Israel are opened to all Jews."

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