The sixty-five Ethiopian Falashmura families who arrived at Ben-Gurion Airport Tuesday are expected to be the last to make aliyah, at least for the time being, this after cabinet decided to stop bringing members of the denomination to Israel.
In 2005 the government announced that it would bring some 17,000 Falashmura to Israel, and now that the quota has been filled, thousands more are still waiting in transit camps to be taken to the Jewish state.
Despite the decision, the Prime Minister's Office issued a statement Tuesday saying that "any Ethiopian who is entitled to come to Israel under the Law of Return, will be able to do so", but stressed that Israel will stop actively searching for Jews in the African country. Subsequently, it was decided to reduce the Jewish Agency's activity there as well.
'Zionist mission of utmost importance'
Falashmura waiting at a transit camp in Gondar were enraged after receiving word of the government's decision. "It is simply ridiculous; there are 8,700 Jews here; many of them have immediate families in Israel," community leader Geto Zamanda said.
"We are Jews and want to make aliyah to Israel; that is where we belong. I don't understand why the Jewish Agency decided to decrease its activity here when there are more Jews."
Avraham Nagosa, head of the Ethiopian immigrant's umbrella organization also slammed the decision to halt the Falashmura aliyah, saying "we will continue to fight for them.
"They are Jews according to the ruling of ordained rabbis. The discrimination began with Israel's inception, and now the Jewish state is turning its back on Zionism and the very principles it was established on," he said.
Deputy Prime Minister and Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Eli Yishai called the government's decision "racist", adding that it "essentially abandons the Falashmura simply because they live on the wrong side of the planet. I cannot imagine a Jewish government allowing such a thing."
Jewish Agency Chairman Zeev Bielski said the organization considers aliyah from Ethiopia to be a "Zionist mission" of utmost importance. "The agency will continue to operate in accordance with the cabinet's decision and we will bring to Israel all those deemed eligible for aliyah by the Interior Ministry," he said.
The Falashmura's hopes now lie with State Comptroller Micha Lindenstraus, who recently asked cabinet to freeze its decision on halting the aliyah from Ethiopia pending the publication of an opinion paper he had drafted on the matter.
Neta Sela contributed to the report