Israel to Bring in Ethiopian Immigrants (AP) By AMY TEIBEL JERUSALEM, ISRAEL 01/31/05 10:31 PM)
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JERUSALEM - By the end of 2007, Israel will bring in the last 20,000
Ethiopians who claim they were forced to convert from Judaism,
according to a government decision announced Monday.
Ethiopian immigrants demonstrated in front of Prime Minister Ariel
Sharon´s office as he discussed the issue, demanding that their
relatives be allowed to join them in Israel.
According to the decision, the monthly immigration quota will be
doubled from 300 to 600 starting in June, with a goal of bringing the
rest of the group in 2007.
Immigration of these Ethiopians, called Falash Mura, has evoked
heated arguments in Israel for years.
While Ethiopian Jews have strong ties to Judaism dating back more
than 2,000 years, the Falash Mura say they were forced to convert to
Christianity in the 19th century and are now embracing their original
But skeptics, including some in the Ethiopian immigrant community,
charge that at least some of the 20,000 waiting to come to Israel are
impostors - latching on to the Falash Mura label in order to escape
their poverty-stricken country.
Jewish Agency Chairman Salai Meridor called the charges "ugly." He
told The Associated Press that the potential immigrants all qualify
under criteria set up by Israel´s government.
The Jewish Agency is a quasi-governmental body that deals with
The Jewish Agency estimated the actual number of Falash Mura still in
Ethiopia at 14,000-17,000. About 20,000 already live in Israel.
Since 1991, members of the Falash Mura have been leaving their
communities and moving into holding camps in the capital, Addis
Ababa. Conditions in the camp are difficult, and Ethiopian immigrants
in Israel complain that their relatives have been suffering.
The Falash Mura claim descent from Ethiopian Jews forced to convert
to Christianity in the 19th century because of persecution. Israel
does not recognize them as Jewish, and they do not qualify for
citizenship until they convert to Judaism under an Orthodox Jewish
process that takes up to two years.
The government imposes an eligibility test for Falash Mura, requiring
Jewish descent on the mother´s side. (Copyright 2005 Associated
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