Ethiopians protest plan to cut aliyah

Say ending Falash Mura immigration while recruiting "white" Jews from rest of world is racist.

ethiopian protest 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
ethiopian protest 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Under banners reading "Our children in Ethiopia love Israel too: Bring them home" and "You have money to bring white Jews, why no money to bring black Jews?" hundreds of Ethiopian immigrants demonstrated Monday in Jerusalem to voice their anger over a government decision to end aliya from the African state within the next year. "The government agreed to bring these people here and now they are going back on their word," Avraham Neguise, head of the coalition of Ethiopian organizations in Israel, told The Jerusalem Post just minutes before addressing the angry crowd, many of whom were waving photos of loved ones still in Ethiopia. "In 2003, the government agreed to certain criteria [based on a 1999 survey of the Ethiopian Jewish population], but now, suddenly, 8,500 names have been removed." "We have a list of people who we believe are eligible for aliya, and all we are asking is for the Interior Ministry to look into it," he said. The Interior Ministry was planning to wind up its operations in the Gondar region of Ethiopia sometime in January, the ministry's spokeswoman, Sabene Hadad, told the Post. The ministry processes aliya applications for the Falash Mura (Jews whose ancestors were forced to convert to Christianity more than a century ago) in Gondar, she said. "We are following a government decision and have processed all those who are eligible according to the government criteria," Hadad said. Neguise's claims were false, she added. Neguise, however, said, "Closing the gates would leave many immigrant families divided," with close relatives remaining in Ethiopia. Shati Desta, who made aliya with his mother in 2003, told the Post stopping aliya from Ethiopia would mean that his father, two siblings and other close relatives would be left behind. "The Interior Ministry keeps telling me to be patient, but I have lost hope," said the 28-year-old father of one, who is employed in a metalworks factory in Petah Tikva. "My brother and sister are also still there and [so is] my wife's brother." Due to the difficult economic conditions and the lack of employment opportunities in Gondar, Desta said, he must send much of his meager salary to his family in Ethiopia to help provide for their daily needs. "This policy is definitely rooted in racism," another protester said. "Why is it that the government actively recruits Jews from all over the world to come and live here, yet turns down Jews from Ethiopia?" Asked whether Ethiopian Jews should be brought here considering the economic depravation faced by many of the olim, Neguise responded: "Every person should be able to decide for themselves whether or not they want to make aliya; making a policy out of it is racist."