JERUSALEM (JTA) – Some 150 Ethiopians claiming Jewish links began arriving in Israel this week, the first groups to immigrate in more than a year.
Eighty-one Ethiopians, known as Falash Mura, landed at Ben Gurion International Airport early Tuesday morning, according to the Jewish Agency for Israel.
Minister of Immigrant Absorption Sofa Landver, Interior Minister Eli Yishai and the director-general of the Jewish Agency’s Aliyah and Absorption Department, Eli Cohen, welcomed them in a special ceremony.
Another 63 Ethiopians are scheduled to Wednesday, according to the Jewish Agency.
The Ethiopians claim to be the descendants of Jews who converted to Christianity generations ago.
Representatives of Israel’s Interior Ministry and Jewish Agency emissaries have been in Ethiopia in recent months examining the eligibility of members of the Falash Mura community to immigrate to Israel, according to criteria set by the Interior Ministry. Some 600 members of the community have received permission to immigrate. The Jewish Agency estimates that another 2,000 will receive permission during 2010.
More than 8,000 members of the Falash Mura community are still waiting in Ethiopia for an Israeli government decision concerning their immigration. Most of them have relatives who immigrated to Israel in recent years.