"It pains me greatly to hear distinguished ministers make statements regarding the Ethiopian aliyah in such an irresponsible manner," said Israel's chief rabbi in a meeting with the community's kessim (Beta Israel spiritual leaders) at the Chief Rabbinate.
"Their words imply that the immigration of millions of Ethiopians to this country is a curse. I wish millions would indeed come," continued Rabbi Shlomo Amar, who also said he has sent a letter on the matter to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
Amar with the Kessim (Photo: Yitzhak Elharar)
Several years ago Amar traveled to the Ethiopian city of Gondar to examine the validity of the Falash Mura's Judaism. In a ruling seconded by Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, Amar determined that their Judaism was not be questioned any further and that therefore under the Law of Return they must be brought to Israel.
"I call for these Jews to be released and brought here, every Jew who wants to come here should be brought, after inspection of course, but regardless of whether he is from Romania or Ethiopia. We must bring these Jews to the State of Israel," said Amar.
It should be noted that the Beta Israel community itself is divided regarding the Falash Mura.
The conference was organized by the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption ahead of the authorization of a new initiative later this month which hopes to aid the Ethiopian community. Ministry Director Erez Halfon said $268 million will be allocated over the course of five years for the benefit of the community.
The conference dealt with several issues of contention between the Rabbinate and the kessim, particularly regarding the kosher slaughter of animals.
A new initiative put forth by the Absorption Ministry will now see a special course for Ethiopian religious figures to ensure the practice is uniform.