Falash Mura Must Wait Another Year

Israel Backtracks on Commitment to Ethiopian Jews

Longer Wait: Ethiopian Falash Mura Jews thought they were near the end of their long wait to immigrate to Israel. Now they have to wait much longer.
ILAN OSSENDRYVER
Longer Wait: Ethiopian Falash Mura Jews thought they were near the end of their long wait to immigrate to Israel. Now they have to wait much longer.

By Len Lyons

Published December 06, 2011, issue of December 16, 2011.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

Backtracking on an earlier commitment, Israel will delay by at least one year completion of its admission of some 4,000 Ethiopian Jews already approved for entry, some of whom have been waiting since 1991 to immigrate there.

The government has instructed the Jewish Agency for Israel to reduce the flow of Ethiopian immigrants to only 110 per month, a 45% reduction from the rate of 200 per month that it promised in November 2010. At this rate, the completion of their aliyah, or emigration, will be postponed until March 2015, rather than March 2014, as had been planned.

Bring Our People Here: Ethiopian immigrants in Israel demonstrate against the lengthy delays in allowing the remaining Falash Mura Jews to immigrate.
Atalia Katz
Bring Our People Here: Ethiopian immigrants in Israel demonstrate against the lengthy delays in allowing the remaining Falash Mura Jews to immigrate.

The Falash Mura are Ethiopians who have Jewish familial roots but lived as Christians for generations in order to escape persecution. But in recent decades, they asserted their Jewish ancestry and began to practice Judaism. The new Israeli decision will leave them waiting in the northwestern city of Gondar, where they live without running water or electricity, scraping by in their tin-roofed, dirt-floor huts and community outhouses.

The delay, the most recent in a history of postponements, prompted between 1,000 and 1,500 Ethiopian Israelis with family members in Gondar to protest outside Israel’s Ministry of Absorption on November 30, shouting the names of their relatives. They have petitioned the government to allow their relatives to immigrate and to join the estimated 130,000 Ethiopian Israelis already there, including more than 35,000 other Falash Mura.

Protest organizer Avraham Neguise and other representatives of the group were invited into the office of Absorption Minister Sofa Landver, who told them that the government’s 2010 commitment gave it the option of reducing the flow from Ethiopia if necessary. In the meeting, Landver provided no specific reasons for the change, alluding instead to a recommendation of an inter-ministerial committee.

Neguise was unmoved. “There is no evidence that the minister is requesting the budget for bringing them,” he told the Forward. “It is her responsibility to bring in immigrants who are eligible and approved.”

The reasons for the government’s altered game plan are elusive. Beyond that, the Jewish Agency and the Ministry of Absorption disagree about the availability of beds in the absorption centers where the incoming immigrants must live for a year or longer. At the same time, the Finance Ministry says the number of beds is not the real problem. And despite the new schedule the government has handed the Jewish Agency, which oversees the preparation of the Falash Mura in Ethiopia, the Prime Minister’s Office says there is nothing to worry about anyway: It will all get done on time.

The first volley in this familiar battle over their immigration began last June, when an inter-ministerial committee, empowered to re-evaluate last year’s Cabinet decision, recommended a cutback in the Ethiopian aliyah. The reason given was an insufficient number of empty rooms in the absorption centers.

But Yehuda Sharf, director of aliyah, absorption and special operations for the Jewish Agency, asserts that there are about 1,000 beds available and that another 500 beds will be free by January 2012. Josh Schwarcz, the Jewish Agency’s secretary general and liaison to the government, agreed that there is currently enough room. Despite the government directive, he says it is “too early” to predict that the aliyah will be delayed.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • “I don’t want to say, ‘Oh oh, I’m not Jewish,’ because when you say that, you sound like someone trying to get into a 1950s country club, “and I love the idea of being Jewish." Are you a fan of Seth Meyers?
  • "If you want my advice: more Palestinians, more checkpoints, just more reality." What do you think?
  • Happy birthday Barbra Streisand! Our favorite Funny Girl turns 72 today.
  • Clueless parenting advice from the star of "Clueless."
  • Why won't the city give an answer?
  • BREAKING NEWS: Israel has officially suspended peace talks with the Palestinians.
  • Can you guess what the most boring job in the army is?
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.