Members of the Falash Mura community in Ethiopia
(photo credit: JEREMY SHARON)
Interior Ministry and Jewish Agency officials are currently in Ethiopia to assess immigration requests of Falash Mura community members who have been waiting for years to come to Israel.
The government decided in September to bring 2,000 by the end of January, and the first 500 are expected to arrive this Thursday.
According to Interior Ministry and Jewish Agency officials at a Knesset Aliyah, Absorption and Diaspora Committee hearing on Monday, 14,212 Falash Mura immigration requests have been evaluated so far, and 1,180 were found to meet the immigration criteria set out in the government resolution.
Those eligible for the current round of immigration are those with parents or grandparents already in Israel.
Of those, 500 names have been given to the Jewish Agency to Prepare them for the flight to Israel later this week. If it is found that fewer than 2,000 members of the community meet the current criteria, an exemptions committee will convene to examine the requests of other individuals.
According to Yoel Lipobatzki, the director of the population and Immigration authority in the Interior Ministry, some 16,600 Falash Mura in Ethiopia have asked to immigrate to Israel. Of these, 7,000 were already on the Israeli government’s list of applicants, while an additional 9,623 have now applied.
Shai Felber, Director of the Aliyah and Absorption Ministry of the Jewish Agency, told The Jerusalem Post from Ethiopia that the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected the financial stability of the Falash Mura community in the country.
The cost-of-living, including basic food items such as flour, have risen due to the health crisis, while relatives in Israel, who send money to their families in Ethiopia, have been hit financially by the coronavirus and have less money to send.
The Jewish Agency has therefore increased its financial support for the community and is providing money for children and nursing mothers.
Felber said that conflict between the Ethiopian army and Tigray regional forces in the north has not affected the security of the Falash Mura community in Gondar.
He noted that flights to Gondar, approximately 180km. from the Tigray region, have stopped but Interior Ministry and Jewish Agency officials are now traveling to the city by bus instead. Preparations for immigration have therefore not been affected, Felber said.
“We are very excited about this operation. We see it as part of the Jewish Agency’s responsibility to carry out the government’s decision and we are working closely with Aliyah and Absorption Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata to fulfil it,” he said.