Jerusalem, Undefined | AFP |
Israel has welcomed a group of 64 Ethiopian migrants, the first group of a new wave of 9,000 to arrive over the next five years, an official said Monday.
Their arrival follows the resolution of a political crisis that threatened Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, which had reneged on its own decision to bring members of a community known as Falash Mura, citing budgetary limitations.
Netanyahu in April was finally forced to allow in 1,300 Ethiopians this year.
“These 64 Ethiopians do not meet the criteria set by the Law of Return, which allows any Jew to settle in Israel, but members of their families have settled there,” Yigar Palmor, spokesman for the Jewish Agency, which deals with immigration to Israel, told AFP.
Palmor said that once settled in Israel, the new immigrants would undergo a conversion process to Judaism.
According to Palmor, the government established a list of 9,000 Ethiopians allowed to immigrate to Israel over the next five years in the name of family reunification.
The 64 newcomers constitute the first group of Ethiopians not recognised as Jews arriving in Israel in three years.
Falash Mura are descendants of Ethiopian Jews who converted to Christianity, many under duress, in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Avraham Neguise, himself originally from Ethiopia and a member of Netanyahu’s Likud party, was at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport to welcome the migrants.
“Reopening the gates of immigration for Ethiopian Jews is mending a wrong done to the families that have been torn for years,” he said in remarks relayed by his spokesman.
Israel’s Ethiopian community includes some 135,000 people.
Israel brought the bulk of Ethiopia’s Jewish community to the country between 1984 and 1991 under the Law of Return guaranteeing citizenship to all Jews, but the law does not apply to the Falash Mura.