JERUSALEM (Feb. 4)
More than a thousand Ethiopian Jews made aliyah last month — the highest number since the end of Operation Moses six years ago.
But immigration from the Soviet Union dropped by more than 60 percent, apparently because of the Iraqi missile attacks on Israel.
According to the Jewish Agency for Israel, a total of 14,456 immigrants arrived in Israel in January, including 13,360 Jews from the Soviet Union, down from an all-time high of 35,000 in December. The National Conference on Soviet Jewry in New York reported an identical figure.
In addition, 1,300 Soviet Jews immigrated to the United States last month, according to the New York-based Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society.
While Jewish Agency officials were pleased with the high Ethiopian aliyah total, up from 530 in December, they said the situation of some 20,000 Jews waiting in Addis Ababa is still desperate.
One official said it would be technically possible for more Ethiopian Jews to leave, but the Ethiopian government has set an unofficial quota and issues exit visas on that basis.
In New York, Rabbi Daniel Allen, assistant executive vice chairman of the United Israel Appeal, said the Jewish Agency is now drawing up a budget that anticipates the arrival of 15,000 Ethiopian Jews between April 1 and Dec. 31, and 225,000 Soviet Jews during the same period.
The war in the Middle East and the Iraqi missile threat appear to be the main causes of the dip in Soviet aliyah, which nevertheless was still almost three times as high as the total for January 1990.
AT LEAST 500 ARRIVALS A DAY
Recent Soviet immigrants have said that while Soviet television is not taking an anti-Israeli slant in its coverage of the war, the reports of damage in Israel have been exaggerated, thereby causing some prospective olim to delay their departure.
The Jewish Agency decided last Friday to send special emissaries to the Soviet Union to provide a more balanced explanation of the war’s impact in Israel and to allay fears among prospective immigrants.
The Israeli Consulate in Moscow last month issued about 650 visas each day, down from about 1,000 a day in the last three months of 1990. The Jewish Agency expects an average of 500 to 600 Soviet immigrants to arrive each day for the near future, until the emergency footing in Israel has ended.
Between 80,000 and 100,000 Soviet Jews now hold Israeli visas and are expected to depart over the next few months.
The government’s immigrant housing program has been hard hit by the emergency, which has shut down major businesses throughout the country, but particularly in the Tel Aviv area.
Housing Minister Ariel Sharon said last week that the construction industry is operating at about 25 percent of its normal capacity.