Ethiopian aliyah must be accelerated - opinion

The Law of Return has allowed for tens of thousands of Ethiopians to make aliyah over the years.

 ETHIOPIANS ARRIVE on aliyah at Ben-Gurion Airport earlier this year. Ethiopian aliyah constitutes a crucial moral issue for the Jewish people. (photo credit: TOMER NEUBERG/FLASH90)
ETHIOPIANS ARRIVE on aliyah at Ben-Gurion Airport earlier this year. Ethiopian aliyah constitutes a crucial moral issue for the Jewish people.
(photo credit: TOMER NEUBERG/FLASH90)

The global Jewish community has long been a leading advocate of Ethiopian aliyah. Now, following the cabinet’s November 28 approval of the immigration of thousands of Ethiopians who have been waiting in Addis Ababa and Gondar for as much as two decades to reunite with their families in Israel, it is time for world Jewry to continue and expand that commitment.

How did we reach this point? The Law of Return has allowed for tens of thousands of Ethiopians to make aliyah over the years, while others, who do not fall under the law’s criteria, have been allowed to immigrate under special government resolutions regarding family reunification.

However, some family members have been waiting for years and now, under the latest government decision, will finally be able to immigrate to Israel. The Jewish Agency for Israel will continue to make family reunification a reality, together with our partners: The Jewish Federations of North America, Keren Hayesod and the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews.

The November 28 decision allows us the opportunity to bring an additional wave of Ethiopian olim to Israel to join their loved ones, adding to the 95,000 Ethiopians our organization and its partners have assisted to make aliyah. 

The Jewish Agency is elated with the most recent government approval. But we also recognize that this is quite a challenging task, to be conducted under less than auspicious circumstances. This means that it is incumbent upon world Jewry to support the organizations that are facilitating the aliyah of the Ethiopian community as well as their integration into Israeli society. 

Now is the time to complete the implementation of the government of Israel’s decision which called to facilitate the aliyah of Ethiopians with a first-degree relative in Israel. Ethiopian aliyah constitutes a crucial moral issue for the Jewish people, particularly in regard to those prospective olim who have been waiting for family reunification. 

 Ethiopian-Israelis protest outside government buildings in Jerusalem, demanding that their relatives be rescues and brought to the country, on November 14, 2021. (credit: Courtesy) Ethiopian-Israelis protest outside government buildings in Jerusalem, demanding that their relatives be rescues and brought to the country, on November 14, 2021. (credit: Courtesy)

Those of us who are working to make this glorious miracle into a reality are also responsible for ensuring that the absorption of Ethiopian immigrants is conducted in accordance with the highest standards of Jewish values, including housing, Hebrew-language education, professional training, and all other areas where world Jewry can be of assistance. This is about doing the right thing.

In a strong indication of the importance of this issue, Aliyah and Integration Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata has made Ethiopian aliyah arguably her top priority. Furthermore, as part of the recent government decision, a new advisory team is being tasked with providing a framework within 170 days for completion of this aliyah and to finally put an end to this painful saga. 

This is a ray of light in the otherwise complex story of Ethiopian aliyah, which is why world Jewry needs to act now to further accelerate Ethiopian immigration, and to help put the government’s latest plan into motion.

It is time for world Jewry to unite around this issue and work together to make sure those who are waiting in Ethiopia to reunite with their families can do so.

Let’s allow people to raise their families in Israel. Let’s relieve the distress of thousands of people who should be with their loved ones in the Jewish state. 

World Jewry, and not only the government of Israel, has a responsibility to ensure the continued acceleration of Ethiopian aliyah.

The writer is chairman of the Board of The Jewish Agency for Israel.