Some Jews are more equal than others: Israel refuses to let Ethiopian Jews in

Ethiopian Jews worshipping in Jerusalem. (Photo by Marc Israel Sellem/Jerusalem Post)
By Brecht Jonkers

DAMASCUS, SYRIA (07:15 PM) – Controversy has arisen in Israel, as the upcoming cabinet meeting of the Tel Aviv regime that is planned for Thursday seems yet again to have no mention of any permission being given for migration of Ethiopian Jews.

According to a report by Jerusalem Post in late December, thousands of Jews from Ethiopia have requested for the so-called aliya, or “return to Israel”: a long-standing Israeli policy that normally allows each and every Jew to settle freely on soil under control of the Israeli regime.

Representatives from the office of Prime Minister Benjanmin Netanyahu stated that there can only be a resolution allowing continued migration of Ethiopian Jews if the Interior Ministry greenlights it, and if the Ministry of Finance can allocate the necessary funds to maintain the influx of immigrants. In total, 1,308 Ethiopians have migrated to Israel in 2017, which is far below the 9,000 that were originally planned to be allowed in by 2020.

“In the history of the State of Israel, there has never been a budgetary limit on aliya,” said Shelly Yacimovich of the liberal Zionist Union party, who claims the decision by Tel Aviv to obstruct Ethiopian migration are caused by racism.

“If the immigrants who waited in Gondar and Addis Ababa were blond, they would be accepted with open arms, as is the case with tens of thousands of white immigrants every year,” she continued.

According to Amos Arbel of the Interior Ministry’s Population Registry, the issue is further complicated by the fact that under Israeli law, most of the current applicants cannot apply for the “Law of Return”, and instead can only enter the area under the more strict “Law of Entry” regulations.

The issue is that many of the Ethiopian applicants are so-called Falash Mura: descendants of Jews in the Beta Israel region (Ethiopia and Eritrea), whose ancestors converted to Christianity in the 19th and 20th century. The mere fact that their ancestors once converted, makes the Falash Mura non-Jews in the eyes of Israeli law even if they have reconverted to Judaism, and as such they can only enter the country as non-Jewish immigrants. By contrast, anyone with at least one Jewish grandparent can immediately receive citizenship in Israel, even if not a practicing Jew himself.

Although the Falash Mura can upon entry into Israel receive full citizenship if they go through an official reconversion to Judaism, the Israeli government has been making it increasingly difficult for other Ethiopians to enter the country. This has led to many families being torn apart between Israel and their Ethiopian homeland, with many thousands of Ethiopian Jews in Israel having been waiting for family reunification for sometimes more than ten years.

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