JERUSALEM (JTA) — The immigration of some 250 Ethiopian Jews to Israel has been placed on hold because of the coronavirus.
The first 50 immigrants had been scheduled to arrive on Wednesday, according to reports, but were put on hold due to the spread of COVID-19. They all have immediate family in Israel.
Former Knesset member Avraham Neguise, who is of Ethiopian descent, told The Times of Israel in an interview that the immigrants were not informed of the postponement until the last minute and most had sold their possessions and gave up their housing because they thought they were leaving this week.
Three Ethiopian Airlines flights had been scheduled to bring the immigrants on March 18, 25 and 31. It is not known when such flights will resume.
A spokesperson from the Aliyah and Absorption Ministry told The Times of Israel that the ministry had arranged for a 14-day quarantine of the group in the north of Israel, but “after discussion with the Prime Minister’s Office, their aliyah was postponed in light of the recommendation of the Ministry of Health due to the coronavirus crisis.”
Forty-three Ethiopian immigrants arrived less than a week before the March 2 election.
The potential immigrants are part of the Falash Mura community, who claim links to descendants of Jews who converted to Christianity generations ago under duress but now seek a return to Judaism. Some 8,000 Falash Mura in Ethiopia are awaiting permission to immigrate to Israel, most of whom have some family members in Israel.