"These are the seeds of Israel – men, women and children – that currently find themselves in the worst living conditions," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said during a Knesset meeting. "This really is the case of a complex humanitarian crisis. We must prevent the emergence of additional refugee camps in Ethiopia."
Netanyahu told the ministers that 600 Falashmura members will come to Israel as soon as next year, and in the three years that follow 200 Falashmuras will make the move each month. "It is our moral obligation as the Israeli people to find a solution," Netanyahu said.
As per the government decision, there will be no additional organized aliyah of Falashmura members once this project is completed. Moreover, no one claiming to be Falashmura member will be granted the right for aliyah. Entrance to Israel will be allowed on an individual basis, in accordance with the Law of Return and the Interior Minister's decision.
200 immigrants will make aliyah each month (Archive Photo: AFP)
'Cannot let it become a historic crime'
Immigrant Absorption Minister Sofa Landver welcomed the measure, which was put together by the director-general of the Prime Minister's Office, Eyal Gabay, in collaboration with various organizations that have been petitioning for the step for years. "This is a historic decision, but we must make sure that it comes with budgetary support and with all the necessary solutions," he said. "It cannot become a historic crime."
Regional Development Minister Silvan Shalom, however, said that the proposal is unsatisfactory. "This is a scandal that must be stopped," he said. "We should bring 1,000 Falashmura members to Israel every month, and bring an end to the saga where thousands of people live in terrible conditions."
There are 7,846 Falashmura members who are candidates for aliyah. As per the decision, the Interior Ministry will examine their eligibility and give them a final answer by August 2011. To be found eligible a candidate must have had a Jewish mother, must desire to return to Judaism in Israel and must have been registered in an official list from 2007 of Falashmura waiting in transition camps. Falashmura members who are already living Israel can request their relatives to be brought to Israel within three months.
Falashmura rallying in Jerusalem in July. (Photo: Guy Asayag)
'We saw their suffering'
"We have experience with government decisions," said Knesset Member Shlomo Molla (Kadima), who supported the measure. "This project will not only put the government's decision-making to the test, but also the execution of these decisions. After many years of evasion, the agency has taken responsibility."
Molla described his experience as the head of a delegation to Ethiopia a year ago. "We saw the distress that people face, and their suffering and the suffering of their families," he said. "The fact that it will take three years to bring them here is ridiculous, and I hope that the government will shorten the unbearable waiting period."
Members of the South Wing to Zion, an organization advocating for Ethiopean Jews, welcomed the decision and called it a "historic justice." A representative of the Public Committee for Ethiopian Jewry stated that "this is a moral, Jewish, human and Zionist decision of the highest order, which comes to complete the aliyah from Ethiopia and bring justice to the Jewish brothers who are pleading to return and connect with the Jewish people in their country."
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