NEW YORK (Dec. 20)
A new census, taken under most difficult conditions in war torn Ethiopia, shows that there are more than 28,000 Black Ethiopian Falasha Jews. Previously, authorities thought the remnant population of this ancient Jewish group had dwindled to a mere 20,000. The new figures, released by the American Association for Ethiopian Jews, shows the dramatic decline of the Falashas from 500,000 in the 16th Century to the present.
The Association’s report showed that more than half of the population is 18 years old or younger and that there are 6000 families, mostly residing in 488 villages and two towns in the central highlands within the provinces of Begemdir, Tigre and Wollo. Most are either landless sharecroppers or poor craftsmen. The report noted that disease, poverty, discrimination and intense conversion efforts by Christian missionaries are still taking their toll.
According to the report, there are 400 Falashas currently living in Israel, all successfully employed. Some are attending universities and a few are studying for the rabbinate. All adults serve in the army. Unfortunately, the report adds, many of those in Israel have parents, spouses and children living in Ethiopia eagerly waiting to Join their relatives. One of the major goals of the Association, the report stated, is to reunite members of these broken families in Israel.
These family reunification efforts are part of a new four-point program of relief, Jewish education, vocational retraining and aliya recently undertaken by the Joint Distribution Committee and ORT which concentrates solely on the first three programs within Ethiopia, the report noted, while the Association itself is concerned with aliya.