Netanyahu pressured by UJC not to end Falash Mura aliya

Section in Economic Arrangements Bill could ultimately end immigration of Ethiopian community to Israel.

falash mura 88 (photo credit: )
falash mura 88
(photo credit: )
The United Jewish Communities (UJC), the chief fundraising body of American Jewry, pressured Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Thursday in a bid to persuade the government not to follow through on a section of the 2009 Economic Arrangements Bill that could ultimately end the immigration of Ethiopia's Falash Mura community into Israel. In a letter signed by UJC President and CEO Howard Rieger and the organization's chairman Joe Kanfer, the UJC urges the prime minister to uphold a decision from last September for Israel's Interior Ministry to check the eligibility for aliya of some 3000 Falash Mura waiting in Ethiopia for permission to immigrate. "UJC/Jewish Federations of North America has long supported efforts to definitively resolve the immigration status of Falash Mura remaining in Ethiopia," wrote Rieger and Kanfer in the letter. "For that reason, the UJC applauded the 2008 cabinet decision, urging that adjudication and immigration of those found eligible should be completed in as short a time as possible… .We urge the Knesset to affirm that policy and to support these efforts." In a response to the letter, a spokesman for Netanyahu said the government was still committed to aliya from Ethiopia. "All I can say is that there will be no negative impact on aliya from Ethiopia," he said. According to some sources there are between 9,000-15,000 Falash Mura - Ethiopian Jews whose ancestors converted to Christianity under duress more than a century ago - who believe they might be eligible to move to Israel. However, to date, the government believes only about 3,000 of them directly fit the criteria laid out by a government directive from 2003. Advocates for the Falash Mura remain hopeful that the decision to check the first 3000 might pave the way for the government to continue assessment additional community members, most of whom keep Jewish practices as they wait in the northern Ethiopian town of Gondar for a chance to prove that they are eligible. Many of those who are waiting to immigrate to Israel already have close family members living here.