Nobody knows their exact number, and the Jewish State has yet to decide whether they meet the definitions and whether it even wants them here. Sharon delayed a decision, and decided not to decide.
Tzipi Livni, during her tenure as immigrant absorption minister, did not hide her position against this immigration. Eventually it was agreed to bring 14,000 people to Israel, little by little. Meanwhile, at the camps where the Falash Mura wait in Addis Ababa and Gondar, where I recently visited, the death rate keeps on increasing.
Falash Mura (Photo: AFP)
The Falash Mura affair has been a grim one from the outset. Charlatan American groups cynically exploited their innocence, promised them paradise, and made them desert their homes, sell their few belongings, and move as refugees in search of a religion that is not their religion.
They arrived from remote villages and settled at the big city's outskirts, where they met a different world: A tempting western-like lifestyle, with commonplace prostitution and AIDS at every corner. Infectious diseases began gnawing at their thin bodies.
Israeli officialdom also took a significant part in the orgy of false promises, but eventually refrained from taking a clear decision. Now, instead of sweeping this reality under the rug, our moral obligation is to find creative ways to resolve this affair.
Just like his predecessor, PM Olmert is also in love with all kinds of disengagements. He will do well to decide immediately: Bring them to Israel once and for all, or disengage from this group, whose future is shrouded in fog. There's no middle way. If he chooses the disengagement solution, he must compensate the Falash Mura precisely the way Gush Katif evacuees were compensates.
This will cost no more than NIS 500,000 (roughly USD 120,000). Each person waiting at the camps should be given a sum of money that will suffice to purchase cows, goats and land, and allow him to return to his village. From there, each immigration request can be dealt with as a personal humanitarian problem only.
In any case, the current trickle of 300 people moving to Israel every month must not continue. At this rate, this immigration wave will be spread over 10 years at least, during which bitter children will be born, and thousands more with "Jewish blood" will be found, turning this into a bottomless pit. Olmert must decide – and now.
Christians with 'Jewish blood'
I personally object to bringing the group currently waiting in Ethiopian camps to Israel, due to a belief that the ties between them and Judaism are merely coincidental. Their removal from the serene villages to the disease-stricken city was made only due to political motives, and meanwhile the numbers keep on growing: Every month, more and more Ethiopian residents claim to be eligible to come to Israel.
Should there be no end put to this issue, and if the State continues to drag its feet over the question of their Jewish legitimacy, it will soon be handling an immense social problem of the scope of the failed handling of the home front during the recent Lebanon war.
Israel's embassy in Addis will see endless lines of Christians with "Jewish blood" who will demand to be brought to Israel and live at the expense of the Israeli taxpayer. What will the Jewish state say then?
And another note, regarding the intolerable number of Ethiopian children at religious state schools. The guilt here lies not only with the national-religious camp, but also with former Prime Ministers Yitzhak Shamir and Shimon Peres, who "sold" those children to the National Religious Party.
The average school year of an Ethiopian is five times larger than that of an Israeli-born student from southern Tel Aviv – and which institution will agree to forego such source of revenue? And so, the coalition agreement made by the national unity government during the 1980s made it to this very day.
Meanwhile, Ethiopian students make failed boarding schools and regular schools richer while paying a heavy price, with a gloomy future.