ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (Jun. 10)
About three years ago, Amsalu Tayachew and his wife, Marie Takele, traveled from their small village in Gondar province to Addis Ababa to await the Operation Solomon airlift.
Marie was nine months pregnant when the Israeli Embassy discovered that she is a Falash Mora, a Jew whose ancestors converted to Christianity.
On the day of the airlift in May 1991, Amsalu, a Jew, flew to Israel without Marie and then one-month-old son Tijihun, confident that they would be allowed to join him in the near future.
Two years later, Marie is still in Addis, where she lives with her parents, who converted the family to Christianity many years ago, and her son, who is now a toddler.
Last month, Amsalu returned to Ethiopia to be with his family and to appeal to Israeli officials here to allow his wife and son to emigrate.
“I went to Israel two years ago,” said Amsalu in Hebrew, “because someone told me that if I was a new immigrant living in Israel, my family would be allowed to follow. During this period, government officials assured me that something would be done. I’ll remain in Addis until the authorities let us go to Israel as a family.”
The Tayachews could be one of the lucky families who will meet the guidelines recently established by the Israeli government on Falash Mora. Under the guidelines, a Falash Mora still in Ethiopia whose spouse is in Israel will likely receive permission to move to Israel on the grounds of family reunification.
By the same token, the Falash Mora parents of an unmarried child living along in Israel will probably be able to move to Israel under the Law of Entry. As such, they will be permanent residents, not citizens.
However, if they are in the process of returning to a Jewish lifestyle, they may be able to enter the country under the Law of Return.
“If it sounds confusing, you’re right,” said a member of the Interior Ministry team here to investigate the applications of 200 Falash Mora whose relatives are living in Israel.
‘DOING THE BEST WE CAN’
“Take the family we met with this morning,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “There are two daughters living in Israel. One of them is single and under 21, so her Falash Mora parents are eligible to immigrate on the grounds of urgently needed family reunification.
“Under the Law of Return, the siblings of the girls living in Israel are eligible to immigrate because their grandparents were Jewish. Furthermore, the siblings’ spouses, who are not Falash Mora but Christian, can also come under the Law of Return. In the end, we’ve approved 14 applications from this family, according to the new guidelines,” the official said.
“There will be people who hear this story and say that the guidelines are too liberal, while others, especially those with relatives still living in Ethiopia, will say they are too strict. In the meantime,” he said, “we’re doing the best we can.”