Thousands of Ferris Mora, descendants of Ethiopian Jews who converted to Christianity, are being harassed by villagers who want their land and are fleeing to Addis Ababa.
Micha Feldman, the Jewish Agency representative in Ethiopia, has sent an urgent report to Jerusalem saying 4,000 of the Ferris Mora have reportedly reached the Ethiopian capital and are waiting for Israel to open its gates to them.
Israel has not made a final decision on the matter, but has so far been reluctant to allow the Ferris Mora into the country. A government-appointed fact-finding mission to Ethiopia concluded in June that the Ferris Mora, who number at least 25,000, had converted to Christianity 100 years ago and today lead a totally un-Jewish life.
This week Israel decided to allow the immigration of 100 Ferris Mora “on a humanitarian basis.” Most of them are elderly people left behind after the May 1991 Operation Solomon airlifted most of Ethiopia’s Jews to Israel. These elderly people are now being permitted to join relatives in Israel.
Immigration and Absorption Minister Yair Tsaban said the move was not a precedent but rather one that involved these individuals only. The emigres would not be considered new immigrants and would not enjoy the same benefits as olim.
The Ethiopian government, which regards the Ferris Mora as Ethiopian citizens, is also placing obstacles in the way of their emigration. And the Ethiopian Church said that bringing the group to Israel would be seen as an attempt to reconvert them.
Tsaban is due to visit Ethiopia shortly to study the issue firsthand.