Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

Ethiopian Aliyah Will Resume Soon, Israeli Foreign Ministry Believes

March 15, 1991
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Jewish emigration from Ethiopia, interrupted last week, will resume shortly, Israel’s Foreign Ministry believes.

The ministry said Thursday that contacts with the government in Addis Ababa indicated there would be an early resumption of flights out of the country carrying Jews seeking to be reunited with families in Israel.

At the same time, the ministry dismissed charges that the Ethiopian leader Mengistu Haile Mariam halted the flow of emigres to pressure Israel for arms.

One flight a week had been arriving in Tel Aviv via Rome since the first of the year. About 2,000 immigrants arrived through the end of February, leaving some 18,500 left in Addis Ababa.

But the flights stopped suddenly at the beginning of March. The Jerusalem Post on Monday quoted an unnamed source as charging that Mengistu was holding up the emigration to get military equipment and gasoline for his army, which is currently engaged in critical battles with various rebel forces.

A spokesman for the Ethiopian Embassy in Tel Aviv denied the allegation, and Israel’s Foreign Ministry concurred.

The Foreign Ministry suggested there had merely been an interruption in the flow of emigres because of technical difficulties. It noted that the process of “family reunion” is complicated and prone to periodic difficulties.

But an Ethiopian immigrant leader here, Rahamim Elazar, told the Israeli daily Ha’aretz on Thursday that he still believed the stoppage was aimed at extracting supplies from Israel for the hard-pressed Ethiopian army.

Similar charges were reported Thursday by the Washington Post.

In Washington, the State Department was asked about the reports at its daily news briefing Thursday.

Deputy spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters that the United States had “raised these reports at a very high level in Addis Ababa, and we have asked for clarification.

“If these reports proved true, it will be a matter of deep concern to the United States,” he said.

Recommended from JTA