JERUSALEM (JTA) — Sixty-three immigrants from Ethiopia arrived in Israel.
The new arrivals were surrounded by family members from the Ethiopian-Israeli community after they touched down at Ben Gurion International airport on Sunday night, the first arrivals from the African nation in three years.
Some 9,000 Ethiopians who claim Jewish descent, or Falash Mura, remain in the country awaiting their opportunity to come to Israel. Following the arrival of the new immigrants on Sunday, about 100 new Ethiopian immigrants are expected to arrive each month.
The Interior Ministry in 2013 approved the immigration of the Falash Mura. The Knesset unanimously approved a plan in November 2015 to bring the remaining 9,000 Ethiopians following a public campaign launched by the Ethiopian community in Israel and volunteer organizations. The plan did not deal with the finances, which include the long-term costs of acclimating the immigrants.
An agreement to find money in the budget for the aliyah of the Falash Mura was signed in April.
The Falash Mura claim links to descendants of Jews who converted to Christianity generations ago but now seek to return to Judaism. The Interior Ministry accepts them as immigrants under the Law of Return, which is less restrictive than halachah, or traditional Jewish law.
About 135,000 Jews of Ethiopian descent are living in Israel. Some 22,000 Ethiopian Jews were airlifted to Israel during Operation Moses in 1984 and Operation Solomon in 1991.