The Interior Ministry is pushing the government to resume facilitating Jewish immigration from Ethiopia, which ceased in 2013, according to a leaked draft proposal published in the Israeli media.
According to the document, which was drawn up by the Interior Ministry and published by Yediot Aharonot on Thursday, some 9,000 Ethiopians living in camps in the cities of Addis Ababa and Gondar will become eligible to become Israeli citizens and have their arrival facilitated by the Jewish Agency.
“The main criteria to receive an entry permit to Israel, in line with decisions of previous governments, were that [the olim] were descended from Ethiopian Jews on the maternal side and that they appeared on one of the lists attached to the government decisions in question.
Upon completing the aliya based on these criteria two years ago, it turned out that many families from the Ethiopian community were split up, with some members in Israel, while others remain in Ethiopia,” the proposal cited by Yediot states.
The proposal further notes that the prospective immigrants left their homes years ago to congregate near aliya centers set up by the Jewish Agency, and that many of them are first-degree relatives of Ethiopians living in Israel who “have been maintaining a Jewish lifestyle.”
If accepted, any Ethiopian who moved to Gondar or Addis Ababa after January 2013, is willing to convert in Israel, and has relatives here who can apply for his acceptance, will be eligible to immigrate.
The government and Jewish Agency celebrated the “end” of Ethiopian aliya two years ago with an official ceremony at Ben-Gurion Airport welcoming the last two planeloads of immigrants.
At the time, Ethiopian activist Avraham Neguise, now a Likud MK, organized a protest to “oppose the closing of aliya from Ethiopia while there are still Jews left behind, most of whom have been parted from their brothers, sisters, children and parents who have been living in Israel for many years.”
Proponents of the government’s policy counter-asserted that those who were left were relatives of relatives and ineligible for aliya.
Sources indicate that Neguise has been pushing Interior Minister Silvan Shalom for a declaration on the issue for some time.
“More than 85 percent of [those left behind in Ethiopia] have first-degree families in Israel: parents, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters,” Neguise told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.
“They must be brought to Israel and reunited with their families. They are an integral part of our community.”
Should the draft become policy, it would require the government to process applications within a year and a half and require the government to send representatives to Ethiopian within three months, Yediot reported.
Both the Interior Ministry and the Jewish Agency declined to comment.
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