Government approves decision to bring 1,000 of 8,000 Falash Mura to Israel

There are approximately 8,200 members of the Falash Mura community in the Ethiopian cities of Addis Ababa and Gondar who are seeking to immigrate to Israel.

By JERUSALEM POST STAFF
October 7, 2018 13:48
3 minute read.
Members of the Falash Mura community in Ethiopia

Members of the Falash Mura community in Ethiopia. (photo credit: JEREMY SHARON)

The cabinet approved a decision made by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last month to bring 1,000 members of the Falash Mura community in Ethiopia to Israel.

Those approved to immigrate to Israel from the 8,000 members of the community still in Ethiopia are the parents of children who came to Israel under previous government decisions.

These parents will be allowed to bring their spouses and unmarried children with them, even if those spouses and children do not themselves have the right to enter Israel.

The decision on Sunday morning states that the interior minister, Shas leader Arye Deri, will have the responsibility of examining and approving the applications of entry into Israel of candidates fitting the criteria set out by the government.

The Aliyah and Integration Ministry will provide the various benefits and rights applicable to immigrants from Ethiopia, while the state Conversion Authority will formally convert them.

The Falash Mura do not have the right to citizenship under the Law of Return since their ancestors converted, under duress, to Christianity, and are instead granted citizenship under the Law of Entry by the consideration of the Interior Minister, and family reunification principles.

They are required to undergo a conversion process once they arrive in Israel.

There are approximately 8,200 members of the Falash Mura community in the Ethiopian cities of Addis Ababa and Gondar who are seeking to immigrate to Israel on the basis of family reunification and of being “descendants of Jews.”

Significant opposition has developed to further immigration of the Falash Mura from the conservative wing of the national-religious community, as well as elements in the Beta Israel Ethiopian Jewish community, who claim that further immigration will lead to a continuous cycle of family reunification claims from Ethiopians who are not Jewish and not connected to the Falash Mura community.

Activists in favor of bringing all remaining 8,000 members of the community to Israel say, however, that the large majority do have the right to immigrate under the terms of previous decisions, and that the government should swiftly evaluate every claim against the criteria and then bring everyone who meets the criteria in one go, so as to finally resolve the issue.

On Saturday night, Bayit Yehudi MK Bezalel Smotrich issued a strongly worded letter to Netanyahu opposing the decision to allow relatives of Israeli citizens from Ethiopia, who themselves do not meet the criteria for immigration, to enter the country and gain citizenship.

“The government has a proposal to approve and finance the immigration to Israel of parents and siblings of those who immigrate because they belong to the Falash Mura community, even though these relatives are not Jewish by any means,” said Smotrich.

“I call upon the immediate halt of further immigration expansions and the removal of the proposed government decision from the agenda.”

Smotrich said that the new decision would lead to further claims for family reunification by people who should not have the right to enter the country.

Chairman of the Jewish Agency Isaac Herzog welcomed the decision, but said that the organization was nevertheless still demanding that all 8,000 members of the Falash Mura community be brought to Israel “and thereby bring an end once and for all to this complex chapter of the aliyah from Ethiopia to Israel.”

The Struggle for Ethiopian Aliyah, a prominent activist group, was also critical of the decision from the opposite perspective, criticizing the government for failing to conclusively put an end to the long-running problem and allow all remaining 8,000 Falash Mura to come to Israel, pointing to a government decision in 2015 to do so.

“While we are glad to see the end of suffering for 1,000 members of the remaining Jewish community in Ethiopia and their loved ones in Israel, we are far from satisfied with the partial and highly limited implementation of the decision that was passed under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s leadership in 2015, to bring the entire remaining Jewish community of Ethiopia to Israel,” said the group in a statement to the press.

“Instead of carrying out its earlier decision, the government is playing with lives by arbitrarily deciding, with no explanation, to bring to Israel just 1,000 of the 8,000 members of the remaining Jewish community.”


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