Planned airlift of 2,000 Ethiopian Jews to Israel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu informed Ethiopian prime minister Abiy Ahmed of his plans to airlift 2,000 Ethiopian Jews to Israel.

“I updated Prime Minister Abiy that I intend to immediately bring some 2,000 people from Addis Ababa and Gondar, as part of our commitment to continuing the Aliyah of Jews to Israel,” Netanyahu tweeted. Netanyahu said Abiy replied that there was no impediment to the move and that it “symbolizes the special relationship between the peoples.”

Netanyahu said Abiy also congratulated him on the recent normalization deals signed between Israel and the UAE and Bahrain, and the two also discussed deepening Israel’s agricultural assistance to Ethiopia.

In November 2015, the Israeli government passed a decision to airlift “the last of the community” waiting in Addis Ababa and Gondar to Israel within five years.

Since that decision, however, just 2,257 Ethiopians have been brought, in dribs and drabs, according to Jewish Agency figures.

While Ethiopian Jewish immigrants from the Beta Israel community are recognized as fully Jewish, immigrants from Ethiopia belonging to the smaller Falash Mura community are required to undergo Orthodox conversion after immigrating.

The Falash Mura are Ethiopian Jews whose ancestors converted to Christianity, often under duress, generations ago. Some 30,000 of them have immigrated to Israel since 1997, according to Netanyahu’s office.

Because the Interior Ministry does not consider the Falash Mura to be Jewish, they cannot immigrate under the Law of Return, and therefore must get special permission from the government to move to Israel.

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