Bring Falash Mura here, Shas minister Margi urges

Livni: Israel needs to respect Ethiopian olim

In a letter to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Religious Affairs Minister Ya'acov Margi (Shas) called Sunday to bring to Israel the remaining Falash Mura still residing in Ethiopia. "Sadly, the previous government decided to annul a previous decision regarding bringing the Falash Mura to Israel," wrote Margi, who replaced Ya'acov Cohen as religious affairs minister in the incoming government. "I ask to reconsider that decision. The State of Israel belongs to the entire Jewish people. Every Jew in every place has a right to come to the Land of Israel and receive citizenship in accordance with the Law of Return. "It should be emphasized that Rabbi Ovadia Yosef has ruled that the Falash Mura belong to one of the 10 lost tribes. He has also described efforts to bring to Israel as a mitzva of saving a fellow Jew...The State of Israel encourages immigration and opposes all forms of racism and discrimination...this [liberal approach] does not fit with the present policy regarding the Falash Mura." The United Jewish Communities, the chief fundraising body of American Jewry, urged Netanyahu in a letter last week to uphold a government decision from last September for the Interior Ministry to check the eligibility for aliya of some 3,000 Falash Mura waiting in Ethiopia for permission to immigrate. Kadima opposition leader Tzipi Livni said Sunday that the immigration of tens of thousands of Ethiopian Jews to Israel a quarter century ago was not sufficiently recounted in a discriminatory Israeli society, "Your story is not told as it should be in the State of Israel," Livni said at a Jerusalem remembrance gathering for the thousands of Ethiopians who perished on their clandestine way to Israel. "This is the most amazing Zionist story which can be described which is the realization of the dream to come to Jerusalem." The former foreign minister, who now heads Israel's largest political party, was instrumental in getting a memorial established at Jerusalem's Mount Herzl for the more than 4,000 Ethiopian Jews who died en route to Israel during her tenure as Immigrant Absorption minister. "The discrimination that exists in Israeli society cannot be fixed by a memorial day or a memorial but by actions," Livni said. "The significance of this day is not just to remember the dead and their story, but the honor which we need to give - and do not give - the Ethiopian community." "Even Israeli society has a lot to learn from you," said Immigrant Absorption Minister Sofa Landver. Landver herself immigrated to Israel from Russia in 1979. The event, which was organized by the Israel Association of Ethiopian Jews and held at the Menachem Begin Center in Jerusalem, came four days before the official annual state ceremony for fallen Ethiopian Jews, which is to be held on Jerusalem Day at the memorial on Mount Herzl in the presence of President Shimon Peres. Tens of thousands of Ethiopian Jews who kept their faith throughout the centuries were flown to Israel during the 1980s and 1990s. They were followed by the Falash Mura, descendants of Jews who converted to Christianity to escape discrimination at the end of the 19th century and later returned to their roots. About 120,000 Ethiopian immigrants live in Israel today.