The Government of Israel has approved a plan to bring the remaining 7800 Ethiopians claiming Jewish ancestry to Israel. Working from rosters prepared, and approved in 2007, those registered will be brought at a rate of 200 month beginning sometime in 2011. Approximately 50-75% of those registered are expected to actually make the journey.
The decision to bring this group is expected to, once and for all, close the doors to the community immigration except in specific individual, and humanitarian, requests.
The decision, reached months ago, was postponed from Cabinet action several times due to Israeli political considerations. In seeking approval earlier today, the Prime Minister had this to say:
Today, the Cabinet will discuss bringing the Falashmura, of the seed of Israel, who remain in Ethiopia, to the State of Israel. These are approximately 8,000 men, women and children who live under very difficult humanitarian conditions. The Government of Israel seeks to resolve this problem because there is indeed a complex humanitarian crisis there and so as to avoid the creation of additional refugee camps in Ethiopia. In the first months, according to the proposal that has been submitted, 700 eligible Falashmura will come to Israel and in the next three years, the remainder of those eligible will be brought to Israel at the rate of 200 a month. I must say that from my perspective, this closes a cycle because during my first term as Prime Minister, I brought approximately 5,000 Falashmura to Israel and today we are discussing an agreed-upon arrangement with all of the relevant bodies, and there are many, so that we might finally resolve this painful and complicated problem. We have a moral commitment as Jews, as the People of Israel, to find a solution. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those involved, especially former Supreme Court President Meir Shamgar and Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky for their work towards this agreed-upon solution, which is responsible and practical.
There are a couple of related stories here.
Everyone who needs to has signed off on the 7800, including Rabbi Shlomo Amar, the Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel.
The North American Conference on Ethiopian Jewry, a group active in promoting the immigration of the Falashmura, has promised to end its activities in Ethiopia and transfer all administration of the transit camps to the Jewish Agency. During the Agency’s recent Board of Governors meeting, almost $2 million was allocated to these efforts for 2011. Going forward, only Ethiopian-Israelis will be employed in the compound.
The Prime Minister insisted on a commitment from the Diaspora communities to pay the cost of winding up affairs in Gondar. I have been told by several leading North American leaders that this was basically “no biggie”. The dollars are not that large.
Lastly, The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, founded by Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, announced today that it would provide NIS 10 million to help absorb the olim once they are in Israel.
Here’s the official statement from Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Cabinet decides to bring Falashmura to Israel.