Ethiopian aliya to stay at 300 a month

Communities hope that "this discriminatory policy will change."

ethipian remembrance 298 (photo credit: Channel 1)
ethipian remembrance 298
(photo credit: Channel 1)
The rate of Ethiopian aliya will not be cut as proposed by the Treasury, but will remain at 300 people a month, according to sources close to the issue. The government will work out the financial details necessary to finalize the decision on Thursday, a highly-placed source told The Jerusalem Post. Others sources have said that there would first be an interministerial meeting on the subject before the budget is officially presented to the Knesset, but not until next week at the earliest. The draft budget, which was approved by the cabinet Tuesday night, isn't expected to reach the legislature until after the High Holy Days. As the budget deliberations were going on Tuesday, some 3,000 Ethiopian immigrants marched, chanted and otherwise pleaded for the government to cancel the cut, which would have reduced the number of those coming to 150 each month. The protesters had threatened to camp out overnight and then commence a hunger strike, but agreed to return home at 10 p.m., when they were told that the government had postponed a decision on the cut and would be reevaluating the issue. Activist Avraham Neguise said, however, that the community was far from satisfied at hearing that the change wouldn't be instituted. He said he still hadn't received official notification that the cut wouldn't be made, and added that the community was still upset that a 2005 cabinet decision to raise the number to 600 per month hadn't been implemented, not to mention previous commitments to bring the Jews remaining in Ethiopia here immediately. "We hope this discriminatory policy will change, and we will not give up our struggle until the last Ethiopian Jews reach Israel," said Neguise, who heads a group advocating that all of the 13,000 to 18,000 Falash Mura in Ethiopia to be brought to Israel. The Falash Mura are Ethiopians who converted to Christianity under duress and have returned to Judaism. The are brought in under the more restricted Law of Entry rather than the Law of Return, which offers citizenship to all Jews. North American Jewry has also pushed for the Falash Mura to be brought to Israel quickly, and its leaders expressed outrage when the proposed cut was announced. The United Jewish Communities opened a $100 million fund-raising campaign to help absorb Ethiopian immigrants following the 2005 decision. Several cabinet ministers also objected to the cut, presented as part of necessary budget trimming following the war against Hizbullah. Absorption Minister Ze'ev Boim, Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter and Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz, all from Kadima; Culture and Sport Minister Ophir Paz-Pines of Labor; and Trade, Labor and Industry Minister Eli Yishai of Shas were all said to be pushing to prevent the cut. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's spokeswoman, Miri Eisen, said he was addressing the issue. "We feel very strongly the pain of the families and understand the importance of the centrality of the State of Israel to the people who want to come here," she said. "We're trying to address it, not as a budget [issue], but as something that's at the essence of the State of Israel."