Netanyahu vows to bring 2,000 Ethiopian Jews in step to return last of those stranded in African country

Prime minister allocates $110 million to bring some of the thousands of Ethiopian Jews stranded in Africa.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday said the government would allocate resources to bring some of the thousands of Ethiopian Jews stranded in that country for years to Israel.

The move will help put into action repeated promises by the government to bring the members of the Jewish community in Ethiopia to Israel to reunite them with family members who moved to Israel over the past several decades.

A report earlier this year by Israeli political leaders and Ethiopian religious heads outlined steps to resolve the problem that has been festering in the Ethiopian community for years as families tried in vain to get permission to bring relatives to Israel.

“To date, nobody knows for sure how many are waiting in the communities, and the number ranges from 7,000 to 14,000 people,” the report said, accusing state institutions of avoiding the issue.

“Six months ago, I promised to bring the remainder of the Ethiopian Jewish community to Israel,” Netanyahu said in a statement. “Next Monday, I will submit for cabinet approval a decision to bring 2,000 of our people of Ethiopian origin, on the way toward bringing all of the rest.”

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Deputy Minister of Internal Security and Commissioner for the Integration of Ethiopians, Gadi Yevarkan, himself an Ethiopian, said bringing the Falash Mura to Israel was the fulfillment of a pledge he and the prime minister made to the Ethiopian community that has been the target of racist attacks over the years.

I got into politics to correct injustices done to the Ethiopian public for decades. One of the injustices is the issue of aliyah,” Yevarkan tweeted. “It is a triumphant answer to the racism that raises its head.”

The best answer is the continued aliyah of Ethiopian Jews and not condescension toward them,” Yevarkan said.

Over the years, tens of thousands of Ethiopian Jews immigrated to Israel under trying circumstances and several thousand died in the attempt. However, the Falash Mura were left behind and some have been living in poverty and deprivation for more than 20 years.

The term “Falash Mura” refers to Ethiopians who claim to have been members of Beta Israel, the long-established Jewish community of Ethiopia, but whose ancestors were converted to Christianity either forcibly or voluntarily by missionaries in the 19th and 20th centuries. It applies as well to members of Beta Israel who stopped practicing Judaism.

The piecemeal immigration of the Falash Mura has resulted in many families being split apart. Many of those still waiting in Ethiopia already have parents, children and siblings in Israel.

A 2015 government resolution to bring the Falash Mura to Israel by 2020 resulted in only 2,200 reaching Israel.