Two US Congressmen urge Olmert not to restrict rate of Ethiopian aliya

Their call comes on the heels of heavy criticism from American Jewry at the proposed cut.

congress 88 (photo credit: )
congress 88
(photo credit: )
Two American congressmen are urging Prime Minister Ehud Olmert not to reduce the number of Ethiopians coming to Israel each month, as was recommended in the 2007 budget. Their call comes on the heels of heavy criticism from American Jewry at the proposed cut, and amidst government movement to scrap it. New York Democrats Charles Rangel and Jerrold Nadler wrote to Olmert earlier this week to "express their concern" at this "terrible reversal in the fortunes of the Ethiopian Jewish community." The two representatives noted their strong support of a 2005 government vote to double the rate of Ethiopian aliya from 300 to 600 a month, a decision which has yet to be implemented. "A decrease in the rate of entry now, even with the hardships imposed by the Lebanon war, would contradict Israel's commitment to promoting family reunification and welcoming Jews in distress." They added, "Even if you cannot sustain the current rate of aliya, we urge you to take immediate steps to improve the terrible living conditions of the community while it waits in Ethiopia." They also called the situation of an estimated 16,000 remaining Falash Mura "desperate." The Falash Mura are Ethiopians who converted to Christianity under duress and have returned to Judaism. They are brought into Israel under the more restricted Law of Entry rather than the Law of Return, which offers citizenship to all Jews. The Prime Minister's Office could not confirm whether the letter had been received, and a spokeswoman declined to comment on it. Despite the ongoing controversy over the rate of immigration of the Falash Mura, the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption reported that this week's plane of Ethiopian olim had landed without a hitch on Thursday, and that currently their arrival continues as usual. The absorption ministry also announced that the 2007 budget would be maintain its three-year NIS 220 million allotment for encouraging aliya, an allocation threatened by budget cuts made to finance the recent war. The money, first initiated under the Sharon government i n 2004, pays for projects such as community aliya, interactive Hebrew TV and programs for returning Israelis.