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Going from Ethiopia to Israel

Photo: Brian Hendler, Jewish Agency
Photo: Brian Hendler, Jewish Agency
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Eight thousand very poor people from Ethiopia are soon going to find a new home in Israel. These poor people are Ethiopians, but they are also Jews. Jews, who until now could not be invited to Israel.

These people, with a fascinating history are called the Falash Mura, and they trace their roots all the way to the Biblical King Solomon.

Photo: Brian Hendler, Jewish Agency
But at the moment, they are living in poor conditions, in what is effectively transit refugee camps in Northern Ethiopia.

Israel has long welcomed Jewish descendants under the Law of Return, which gives Jews and those with Jewish parents and grandparents the right to settle in Israel and freely obtain citizenship.

Israel just doesn't welcome such people – it actively looks for them and expends resources to “bring them home.”

In a covert enterprise known as Operation Moses, the Israeli government mounted a secret operation to repatriate Ethiopian Jews from Sudan during a famine in 1984.

And again in 1991, just before Ethiopia's Mengistu Haile Mariam was toppled, Israel once again airlifted over 14,000 Ethiopian Jews to Israel in just 36 hours in Operation Solomon.

The Falash Mura would have been feeling at home in Israel already, had it not been that their ancestors were forced to convert to Christianity, making them ineligible to emigrate under Israeli law.

But the government has now decided, on humanitarian grounds, to end their suffering by bringing them to Israel – to a place they could call their own.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel had a moral duty to resolve the “complex humanitarian crisis” being faced by the Falash Mura.

“The government of Israel wants to solve this problem, because there is a difficult humanitarian crisis there,” said the Prime Minister.

“These are the seeds of Israel – men, women and children – that currently find themselves in the worst living conditions,” he added.

This time, the plan to bring the Falash Mura people to Israel will be neither covert nor will it proceed at a lightening speed.

It would take place gradually over the next three years, and the first six hundred would not arrive until next year. Only 200 a month on average will make the trip to Israel.