The cabinet unanimously approved renewed immigration from Ethiopia from among the community of descendants of Jews, against the background of a severe civil war in the country.
The decision on Sunday to approve the government resolution – which in effect is the ongoing implementation of a previous government resolution from 2015 – will initially bring 3,000 Ethiopians to Israel.
Should the number of eligible candidates for immigration exceed 3,000, the government would need to pass a new resolution to appropriate a separate budget for their immigration and absorption.
The budget allocated for the immigration and absorption of the first 3,000 immigrants totals NIS 570 million.
Aliyah and Integration Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata is understood to have pushed strongly for the adoption of the resolution, after “difficult and protracted negotiations” with other government ministries.
Under the terms of Sunday’s decision, those who comply with the terms of government resolution 716 from 2015 and who have first-degree relatives in Israel – either a parent, child or sibling – will be able to immigrate. Resolution 716 called for bringing all remaining members of this group to Israel, and 4,500 have arrived since then.
Those eligible for immigration now will be allowed to bring with them their spouses, minor-age children, and unmarried adult children.
Someone whose parents came to Israel and died here will also be allowed to immigrate.
Kasaw Shiferaw, chairman of Activists for the Aliyah of Ethiopian Jews, said he was happy that 3,000 members of the community would be immigrating, but said he was “pained that thousands more families are being left behind, and their lives are in real danger because of the civil war.”
Shiferaw said the government “must bring everyone and resolve the problem once and for all. Otherwise, we will continue to make the same mistakes that have been made for the past 30 years.”
In 2010, 9,500 Ethiopians from the community previously known as Falash Mura but now referred to as descendants of Jews were put on a list of eligible candidates for immigration.
The overwhelming majority of the group was of patrilineal Jewish descent. Since their ancestors converted to Christianity at the end of the 19th century, they are not eligible for immigration under the Law of Return, and were not included in the ruling of Rabbi Shlomo Amar in 2005 to bring to Israel matrilineal Ethiopian descendants of Jews.
Instead, they can immigrate to Israel under family reunification laws approved through the Interior Ministry.
Some 5,000 now remain, while activists state that there are several thousand other people in Addis Ababa and Gondar who have either been born since 2010, or are of matrilineal Jewish descent and were not included in the 2010 list, and should also be allowed to immigrate.
Sunday’s government resolution states that the interior minister and the aliyah and integration minister must draw up a program for evaluating the claims of all those still waiting in Ethiopia to immigrate, and to bring those who are eligible to Israel, thus ending mass immigration from the country.