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News Brief Israel’s Cabinet approves plan to reunite 1,000 Ethiopian Falash Mura with family in Israe

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel’s Cabinet approved a plan to bring some 1,000 Ethiopian Falash Mura who have children living in Israel to the country.

The plan approved on Sunday was put forward by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon.

Under the plan, the Interior Minister will evaluate and approve the entry of candidates who meet the criterion of having children who entered Israel under previous government decisions regarding the Falash Mura community. The parents will be able to bring with them their partners and their unmarried children who do not have children.

The Aliyah and Integration Ministry will provide those entering Israel with the rights due to Ethiopian immigrants. The Conversion Division will provide conversion services, according to a statement from the prime minister’s office.

There are some 8,000 Falash Mura in Ethiopia awaiting permission to immigrate to Israel, most of whom have some family members in Israel.

The Falash Mura claim links to descendants of Jews who converted to Christianity generations ago under duress but now seek to return to Judaism. They must get special permission to immigrate to Israel due to their uncertain Jewish status.

In 2013, Israel’s Interior Ministry approved the immigration of the remaining Falash Mura, and the Knesset in November 2015 unanimously approved a plan to bring some of them to Israel following a public campaign launched by the nation’s Ethiopian community and volunteer organizations. But 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 2016, and in 2017 some 1.300 Falash Mura arrived in Israel. The 2019 state budget, which was approved by the Knesset in March, does not include funds for Ethiopian immigration.

“While we are glad to see the end of suffering for 1,000 members of the remaining Jewish community in Ethiopia and their loved ones in Israel, we are far from satisfied with the partial and highly limited implementation of the decision that was passed under PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s leadership in 2015, to bring the entire remaining Jewish community of Ethiopia to Israel,” the Struggle for Ethiopian Aliyah organization said in a statement.

“During immigration waves to Israel, families were separated with promises from the Israeli government that siblings, children and parents who were left behind in Ethiopia would be brought to Israel in just a few weeks’ time.  In some cases, 20 years have passed since these promises were made, while families still long to reunite with their loved ones. Today’s decision allows parents to immigrate only with their unmarried children, forcing them to leave behind their married children and grandchildren, causing more family separation.”

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