In an open letter to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and other government officials, leaders of the Ethiopian community in Israel have asked the government to back off from plans to allow the entry of an additional 8,000 Ethiopians who are awaiting permission to enter Israel. The group awaiting entry to Israel are not Jews, but Christians, despite their claims.
The letter was signed by several keisim, congregational leaders of Ethiopian Jewish communities, as well as Rabbanim of the community who received semichah in Israel, attorneys, IDF officers and community activists. According to the writers, the group known as the Falash Mura “were unable to withstand the temptations and converted to Christianity 140 years ago; unable, like the other Jews of Ethiopia, to stand on their faith and allow themselves to be killed for it, if necessary, as Jews have traditionally done. Already many of these people have been brought to Israel as part of the migration of Ethiopian Jews to Israel – indeed, their number here is double the number of actual Jews.”
A 1974 poll by the Joint Distribution Committee said that there were some 28,000 Jews in Ethiopia, the letter writers said. “Despite that, more than 50,000 people have arrived in Israel as part of the Falash Mura. We are not making up these figures, they are all documented and in the hands of the government,” the letter said.
The community has not acted against the government’s policy of admitting all those who claim Jewish ancestry because of “fear,” the letter said. “There have been threats of murder by the Falash Mura and the Christians who have immigrated here against anyone who dares speak out against them. They have a great deal of support in institutions here in Israel – after all, they outnumber us. The fears we had in Ethiopia from these people, who persecuted us for many years, continue here.” The letter appealed to ministers to decide against allowing those awaiting entry to Israel to migrate here.
The letter was sent on the occasion of a meeting set for Monday in which ministers will discuss the entry of some 8,000 Ethiopians who have applied to come to Israel, on the basis of their Jewish background, and of “reunification of families,” to join relatives who migrated to Israel in the past. In May, President Reuven Rivlin visited Ethiopia and met with representatives of the group, some of whom said they have been waiting 20 years for visas to Israel. Rivlin said that while he sympathized with the plight of those in Ethiopia, he could not promise a solution to their dilemma, “although the interior minister has promised that anyone who files a request to immigrate will receive an answer.”