Ethiopian leaders want thousands more Falash Mura to immigrate

Interior Ministry unilaterally refuses to consider aliah applications from 8,000 Ethiopian villagers.

falash mura 88 (photo credit: )
falash mura 88
(photo credit: )
The Interior Ministry unilaterally refuses to consider applications to immigrate to Israel from 8,000 Ethiopian villagers who claim to be members of the Falash Mura community, a local Ethiopian leader told the Knesset State Control Committee on Wednesday. Avraham Ngosa, head of the South Wing to Zion organization and of the representatives of local Ethiopian organizations in Israel, charged that this was one of several violations by the government of its decision of February 16, 2003 to allow Falash Mura who can trace their maternal line back to a Jewish ancestor to immigrate according to the Law of Return and undergo conversion in Israel. However, according to Baruch Dadon, head of Ethiopian immigration for the Interior Ministry, experts estimated that there were 26,000 Jews and Falash Mura left in Ethiopia after Operation Shlomo in 1996. Between then and now, however, 28,000 Jews and Falash Mura have immigrated with hundreds more still waiting to be processed. Ngosa told the committee that former Interior Ministry director-general David Efrati had compiled three lists of Falash Mura who met the criteria for immigration, one from Adis Ababa the capital, one from Gondar and a third from villages in the countryside. He charged that although the Interior Ministry officials processed the applications on the basis of Efrati's lists, they refused to consider those from the villages. Ngosa also charged that most of the villagers had come to Gondar but were not allowed into the camp where the Falash Mura from Gondar were living while awaiting immigration. As a result, they did not receive food and medical assistance and could not pray or study Judaism. Organizations like the Jewish Agency and the Joint Distribution Committee who were helping the Falash Mura in Gondar said they could not help those whom the Israeli government did not recognize as potential immigrants, he said. Ngosa also charged that the government was discriminating against the Falash Mura by barring all of those who had undergone conversion after July 30, 2001 from bringing their children or grandchildren to Israel according to the Law of Return. Until then, the government had allowed those converting in Israel to do so. However, Interior Ministry director-general Aryeh Bar told the committee that in 2005, the government approved by name a list of 17,188 Falash Mura who would be considered for immigration to Israel. Of those, 14,241 had already immigrated, 1,312 had still not been processed and about 4,000 had been rejected as not meeting the criteria. In addition, 3,200 children born after the list was compiled had immigrated to Israel. In accordance with a motion by Knesset State Control Committee head Zevulun Orlev (NU-NRP), the committee voted unanimously to ask State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss to examine the government's handling of the 2003 decision to bring the remaining Falash Mura to Israel. Lindenstrauss accepted the request.