Israel backs plan to bring over remaining Ethiopian Jews

By Jennifer Lipman, July 9, 2012
Operation Moses

Operation Moses

The remaining members of the Ethiopian Jewish community will be brought to Israel by 2014.

Although more than 120,000 Ethiopian Jews now live in Israel, there are still an estimated 2,200 Jews in the African country.

The government announced on Sunday that it planned to bring that number to Israel in the next two years, as well as to open a £2.8 million absorption centre outside Sderot to help the new arrivals. The centre will be partially funded by the Jewish Agency.

The plan, which was approved by the cabinet, will help a community, many of whom have been waiting in refugee camps for up to a decade. Many have relatives in Israel and the news will be welcomed by those in the Jewish state hoping to reunite their families.

It is hoped that the new plan will bring to an end the delays, which have been blamed on a lack of space in Israel's absorption centres.

The Ethiopian Jews still living in the African country are known as Falash Mura, a group who claim their Jewish ancestors were forced to convert to Christianity.

Although some have questioned their Jewish status, Israeli rabbis have ruled that they are of Jewish descent, although most are expected to undergo a conversion process on making a liyah.

Israel's efforts to bring the Ethiopian Jews to Israel began as a secret mission in the 1980s and by January 1985 Israel had airlifted some 8,000 people from the impoverished, famine-stricken African country. In 1991 a further 15,000 Ethiopian Jews were airlifted to Israel in Operation Solomon.

Last updated: 10:00am, July 9 2012