(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The Interior Ministry will examine the applications of some 1,000 Falash Mura seeking to come to Israel, a government official informed the High Court of Justice on Monday. The process will thereby complete the implementation of a cabinet decision from 2003 to bring home the remaining members of the community who were descended on their mother’s side from a Jewish female.
However, the petitioners in the case, including 380 members of the Falash Mura community and an American Jewish organization called The Struggle to Save Ethiopian Jewry (SSEJ), were dissatisfied with the official’s announcement and demanded that the ministry examine a new list of 8,700 members of the Falash Mura community that was drawn up in 2007 to see if they, too, are eligible to immigrate to Israel.
During the hearing, the state’s representative, attorney Yochi Gnessin, accused the petitioners of continually making new demands to bring more and more members of the Falash Mura community to Israel despite declaring that each list was the final one.
Originally, the SSEJ and the Ethiopians petitioned the High Court to speed up government implementation of the 2003 decision to bring the remaining members of the Falash Mura community in Ethiopia, who were gathered in camps in Addis Ababa and Gondar, to Israel.
The cabinet decision declared that all of the remaining Falash Mura in Ethiopia had been included in an unofficial survey conducted by Rabbi Menachem Waldman and David Efrati in 1999 and that only those on the list were eligible to immigrate.
In January 2008, the state informed the High Court that it had concluded its examination of the 17,188 names on the Waldman-Efrati list, plus the children who had been born to them, and had approved the immigration of 16,095 people.
At that meeting, the court urged the Interior Ministry to consider allowing more members of the Falash Mura community who wished to immigrate to be allowed to, so that the original quota of 17,188 would be filled.
In the two and a half years since then, the government decided to see whether some of the Falash Mura included in the Waldman-Efrati list had been overlooked.
It also decided to allow Falash Mura living in Israel to apply for relatives to come to Israel until the end of September 2009. In the meantime, 2,413 members of the Falash Mura in Ethiopia applied to come to Israel.
For an application to be considered by the Ministry of Interior, the Falash Mura from Ethiopia must apply for unification with a family in Israel and the same family in Israel must apply for unification with the applicant in Ethiopia.
Thus, the Interior Ministry official, Amos Arbel, informed the court
that the ministry was examining only the reciprocal applications, to see
whether the Falash Mura applicant was registered in the Waldman-Efrati
list. Those who were, and also met the other criteria established by
the government, would be brought to Israel.
Arbel said of the 2,413 applicants, some 1,200 had already immigrated to
Israel and about 1,000 applications were left to consider. He estimated
that the process would take three or four months. After those eligible
arrived in Israel, the government would have fulfilled its promise to
bring all the remaining Falash Mura to Israel, said Arbel, unless
someone convinced it that there were still Falash Mura left in Ethiopia