The Interior Ministry made sure that Shparo left financial guarantees back home so he will return to Ethiopia at the end of his trip, as is customary with Ethiopian Jews who have been refused or not yet cleared for aliya.
Sintiyahu Shparo, 18, arrived in Israel just before Passover, in preparation for the International Bible Contest that will take place here on Independence Day. He was greeted at the airport by his father, who made aliya in 2001, as well as his brothers and friends who had also made aliya from Ethiopia.
Shparo has been waiting for more than a decade for permission from the Interior Ministry to make aliya and be reunited with his father and the rest of his family who are already living in Israel.
Shparo explained: “Participating in the Bible Contest has been a dream of mine since I was a small child. I’m doing this for my community. All through my childhood I watched them suffer. I’m not here to represent just myself, but the entire Jewish community in Ethiopia that is waiting to make aliya. Now, thank God, I will be able to make this dream come true.”
What Shparo didn’t mention is that his trip to Israel will only offer him a temporary taste of the country and its people. He has not yet been cleared to make aliya and reunite with his family, since the ministry’s policy is to gradually bring over small numbers of immigrants from Ethiopia.
This is why the Interior Ministry made sure that Shparo left behind the necessary financial guarantees so he will return to Ethiopia, as is customary in the case of Ethiopian Jews who can not presently make aliya, but want to attend a wedding of a relative in Israel.
Despite previous decisions, the current government is continuing to delay the arrival of another group of Jewish immigrants from Ethiopia, and has not allocated funds in the current budget for this activity. Recently, an organization called Struggle for Ethiopian Aliya organized 1,000 people to demonstrate in front of the Knesset to protest what they’re calling the “discontinuation” of aliya.
This struggle is quickly turning into a national movement, especially following the recent support from B’nei Akiva and other youth groups such as The Federation of Working and Studying Youth, as well as a number of pre-military preparatory programs.
B’nei Akiva is the most representative organization of Israel’s national-religious youth, so their joining the struggle marks a significant turning point. In the past, a number of national-religious organizations were undecided regarding the airlifting to Israel of the remaining Jews living in Ethiopia.
In an official statement, the Struggle for Ethiopian Aliya said that they are expanding their efforts and planning to carry out additional protests after Passover if preparations for aliya are not undertaken straight way. The spokesperson for the organization stated: “We demand that Israel implement its decisions and immediately bring to Israel the 8,000 Ethiopians who have already been approved for aliya.”
Translated by Hannah Hochner.