News Brief

Israel will allow additional Ethiopians to petition for aliyah under the special circumstances afforded the Falash Mura.

Without specifying a number, Israel’s Cabinet decided Sunday that the petitioners must meet three key criteria: They must be listed on a 1999 census of the Falash Mura in Ethiopia; have been living for at least a year in the Ethiopian city of Gondar, where Jewish aid groups have provided services; and have relatives in Israel who can submit formal petitions on their behalf.

At least 1,400 Ethiopians are expected to meet those criteria, and possibly as many as 8,700.

The move follows months of pressure on the Israeli government by advocates of Ethiopian aliyah, including American Jewish federation executives. Several months ago, Israel’s Supreme Court recommended that the government check the eligibility for aliyah of an additional 1,400 or so Falash Mura but did not order the government to do so.

The Falash Mura are Ethiopians who claim links to Ethiopians whose Jewish ancestors converted to Christianity a century ago to escape economic and social pressures, but who now are returning to Judaism and petitioning to immigrate to Israel.

On Sunday, the Cabinet ordered the Interior Ministry, which historically has been slow to verify the eligibility of Ethiopian petitioners for aliyah, to begin the verification process by Jan. 1. Those found eligible will be brought at a rate of up to 100 per month, the Cabinet decision said.

A total of 16,095 Ethiopians have immigrated to Israel since the Cabinet decided in February 2003 to bring additional Ethiopian olim.

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