Landver flies to Ethiopia to resolve fate of Falash Mura

First ever visit by a minister of absorption centers on eligibility of 8,700 would-be Olim.

Ethopian Olim 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Ethopian Olim 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Immigrant Absorption Minister Sofa Landver will make her maiden voyage to Ethiopia on Saturday night, where she will be the first minister of immigrant absorption to visit the East African country and grapple with the ongoing aliya controversy surrounding the Falash Mura community, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
In an interview with the Post before her departure, Landver said that she wanted to see the situation on the ground for herself and “formulate a professional opinion.”
Landver: I need to see what is going on to help solve the issue
“Once I have seen what is going on, then I will be better equipped to sit with the prime minister and discuss what the goal of the Israeli government is regarding this aliya and what exactly should be done,” she said. “I have already sat with many organizations that either advocate for or against this aliya, with Kessim [Ethiopian spiritual leaders] and many more experts. I just want to create my own opinion on this complicated topic.”
Landver said that the outcome of her visit could possibly result in a clearer government policy regarding the eligibility of some 8,700 Falash Mura – Ethiopian Jews whose ancestors converted to Christianity more than a century ago – to make aliya, and the role of the state in verifying whether they had the right to do so under the Law of Entry.
Earlier this week, the High Court of Justice ruled that the government must check the aliya eligibility of these 8,700, a process that has been stopped and started by the state for the past five years depending on who was heading the Interior Ministry.
“The High Court is of course the upper arm of the state, but the entrance to the country is ultimately the decision of the government,” commented Landver, adding that “the State of Israel has to give the green light for these people to come in, and the body responsible for taking them in is the Immigrant Absorption Ministry.”
Landver’s trip to Ethiopia is being organized under the auspices of the Jewish Agency, which recently increased its activities in the country with an eye to completing the process in the coming years. The minister will spend two days in the capital Addis Ababa, where the Jewish Agency runs its pre-immigration preparation, and two days in the northern city of Gondar, where the majority of Falash Mura are still waiting to be checked for aliya eligibility.
Eli Cohen: Purpose of visit to show what Ethiopian Aliya looks like
Eli Cohen, director-general of immigration and absorption at the Jewish Agency, said the main goal was to show the minister the complete journey an Ethiopian Jew takes today, from the rural villages surrounding Gondar to the camps in that city, and then on to Addis Ababa, where they are prepped for joining Israeli society.
He told the Post that the Jewish Agency had recently submitted a plan to the prime minister for how to wind up the final phase of the Falash Mura immigration.
He said it was important for the state to follow through with the aliya because “it was decided by Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar that these are Jewish people,” and “it has become a humanitarian issue, as well as a Zionist one.”
“I really hope that after Minister Landver sees the situation on the ground herself and sees the difficult conditions under which the Jews from Ethiopia live, as well as the national treasure of the children, and she will decide to bring all the Jews of maternal lineage to Israel,” commented Joseph Feit, a former president of the North American Coalition on Ethiopian Jewry, which provides aid and resources to those waiting in Gondar and which has been actively lobbying the government on this issue.
“I hope she will do her best to expedite a resolution from the government or legal decision on this matter,” he said, adding that despite concerns by some in the government that this aliya would never cease, there was a consensus among organizations involved in working with the community that once the 8,700 were inspected, all operations in Gondar would be closed down.
In addition to Landver’s visit, the Ministerial Committee for Legislation is expected to discuss a bill on Sunday sponsored by Interior Minister Eli Yishai that will set in law the government’s responsibility to carry out all the eligibility checks.