Remnant of Ethiopian Jews making the move to Israel

The decision taken in November 2015 by the Israeli government to allow 9,000 Ethiopians previously not recognized as Jews to immigrate to Israel marks a last step in successive approaches to the issue, as reported by Bernard Dichek in the Jerusalem Report (Jan. 25). Some of those who had been allowed to come at the time of the mass airlifts of 1984 (8,000 Ethiopian Jews) and 1991 (14,000 more) happened to be of mixed Jewish and non-Jewish lineage. In 2003, the Sharon government decided to allow only those matching strict criteria (i.e., having a Jewish mother) to come to Israel. The Netanyahu government reaffirmed those criteria in 2010. The impact on people who were expecting to immigrate to Israel was devastating; some had already sold their belongings and left their homes, families were separated, while people lived in huts next to the Israeli Embassy in Ethiopia, clinging to the hope of reaching Israel some day. Ethiopian activists in Israel were unable to convince the government to bring them to Israel. In 2014, it announced that immigration from Ethiopia was completed.


After the 2015 Israeli elections, Dichek adds, the beating of an Ethiopian-Israeli soldier by police highlighted discrimination suffered by the Ethiopian Jewish community in their new home. Asking for advice from Avraham Neguise, a newly-elected Ethiopian-born member of Knesset, the Israeli Parliament, Prime Minister Netanyahu received several recommendations to improve the lot of Israelis of Ethiopian origin, and the Knesset was also made aware of the resentment about those stranded in Ethiopia, whose plight was made clear to a fact-finding mission there. This mission led to a reversal of government policy: “The government decision, for the first time, enables Ethiopians who have Jewish lineage on their father’s side to come to Israel. Their non-Jewish spouses and common children will also be included.” All are expected to reach Israel within five years, with the first group expected in March.

(The Jerusalem Report, P.O. Box 1805, Jerusalem 91017, Israel;