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Israel Establishes Committee to Study Status of Ferris Mora

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Ethiopian leaders here are pleased by the decision of the Israeli Cabinet to study the problem of the Ferris Mora, the Ethiopian Christian sect who claim Jewish origin and seek to immigrate to Israel. On Wednesday, the Cabinet established a high-level committee to deal with the issue and report back within a month.

The committee includes the ministers of justice, interior, religion and foreign affairs, as well as the chairman of the Jewish Agency. It is to be chaired by Absorption Minister Yair Tsaban. It is empowered to create a body of experts to examine in depth the origins of the sect, its Jewish status and the possibilities of aliyah.

Relatives of the Ferris Mora have been demonstrating in Jerusalem against an earlier Cabinet decision to admit just 100 members of the sect, most of whom live alone in Ethiopia and have close relatives in Israel.

Thousands of members of the sect have collected in Addis Ababa in recent months in the hope of making their way to Israel. They have left their villages for the Ethiopian capital despite the reluctance of the Israeli government to recognize their Jewishness and despite strong objections to their emigration by the Ethiopian government.

A government-appointed fact-finding team visited Ethiopia earlier this year and registered opposition to the mass aliyah of the sect. The team suggested that a lengthy “returning to Judaism” program be administered in Ethiopia by Israeli emissaries over a period of years.

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