Ethiopians Jews 224.88.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Ethiopian MK Shlomo Molla (Kadima) called on the Interior Ministry Tuesday to improve its system of background checks for Ethiopian Jews eligible to make aliya under the Law of Return.
During a hearing of the Knesset's Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs Committee, Molla - who chaired the meeting in place of regular committee head MK Michael Nudelman (Kadima) - heard from numerous members of the Ethiopian community about the struggle to bring over loved ones from their former homeland.
"We are talking about families that have appealed over and over again to the Interior Ministry to grant their loved ones permission to come here," said Moshe Bahata, head of the Jewish Agency for Israel's department on Ethiopian immigrant absorption, who opened the session. "But over and over again they have been refused entry."
It is estimated that there are hundreds of Ethiopian-Israeli families - most of Tigret descent from the country's Northern Province - who have been separated from their close relatives by Interior Ministry bureaucracy and misunderstanding.
Avraham Neguise, chairman of advocacy group South Wing to Zion and head of the coalition of Ethiopian organizations in Israel, told The Jerusalem Post following the meeting that no system of appeals existed for Ethiopian immigrant families who had been denied permission by the Interior Ministry to bring their relatives to Israel.
"It is very sad that no other immigrant community or families are in this situation, only the Ethiopian community," he said, adding that despite recent claims by the government that aliya from the African nation was about to come to an end, Israel still had a responsibility to bring over those who were eligible.
"After Operation Solomon (in 1991) there were those who said aliya from Ethiopia was over, but I maintained that there were still more people to come and, in the years since then, more than 48,000 new immigrants have arrived here," pointed out Neguise, whose primary focus is on the community of Falash Mura - Ethiopian Jews whose ancestors converted to Christianity more than a century ago, but who are entitled to immigrate to Israel under a special clause in the Law of Entry, not the Law of Return.
In the meeting, which was called to discuss those Ethiopians whose Jewish heritage was more straightforward, Molla called on the Interior Ministry to readdress the issue, establish an official appeals process and to work together with the community's Kesim (spiritual leaders) to determine who was a Jew and who was not.
Interior Ministry representative Baruch Dadon said that the Law of Return was open to all Jews without limitation. He agreed to return to the Knesset committee in the next month to report on progress in the matter.
"This is only the start of discussions on this issue," concluded Molla.