It marked an official acceptance of a ruling already handed down about 47 years ago by Israel’s Sephardic chief rabbi at the time, Ovadia Yosef.
By World Israel News Staff
Without fanfare or even publicity, Israel’s Chief Rabbinate Council decided in November to accept the Jewishness of immigrants to the Jewish State from Ethiopia.
The decision was first reported by Israeli public broadcaster Kan on Sunday evening.
It marked an official acceptance of a ruling already handed down about 47 years ago by Israel’s Sephardic chief rabbi at the time, Ovadia Yosef, accepting the Ethiopian Jewish community, which calls itself Beta Israel.
The ruling reportedly does not apply to Falash Mura, descendants of Ethiopian Jews who involuntarily converted to Christianity centuries ago. This segment of the population must still undergo an Orthodox conversion to gain acceptance as Jews.
Some 140,000 Ethiopian Jews live in Israel today, according to official figures, a small minority among a population of nearly nine million.
Questions over their Jewishness have come to the fore in such cases as when workers of Ethiopian origin employed at the Barkan winery were fired in 2018 due to the restriction of Jewish law rendering wine touched by a non-Jew as not kosher. The firing was later reversed following an uproar that included a charge of racism against the winery leveled by Israel Sephardic Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, son of Ovadia Yosef.
Members of the Ethiopian community have also complained of police brutality. Massive protests broke out last summer on the heels of the shooting death of Solomon Tekah by an off-duty police officer. Media reports say that the bullet fired by the policeman ricocheted from the ground before hitting Tekah, indicating that he did not shoot to kill.
A year ago, Ethiopian-Israelis protested in different parts of the country after the shooting death of Yehuda Biadga. In that case, the policeman said that he felt threatened by a knife Biadga was wielding. Witnesses said that the two were a significant distance apart when the policeman opened fire.
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan announced the establishment of the Gender Equality and Cultural Diversity Unit of the Israel Police in the aftermath of the deadly incidents.