Those who have for years railed against the unchecked immigration of second- and third-degree relatives of Ethiopian immigrants who came to Israel in the 1980s and 1990s were somewhat vindicated in a report issued by the Central Bureau of Statistics. Out of the 1,300-some Ethiopian immigrants to Israel in 2017, about half – a total of 597 – are Christians.
The majority of Jewish Ethiopians came to Israel in several waves of immigration in the ’80s and ’90s, known as Operation Shlomo and Operation Moshe. Remaining behind was a group known as the Falashmura, which claimed Jewish ancestry. Over the past 20 years, many of them have been living in transit camps in Ethiopia, claiming that their lives are in danger because of persecution. Governments have been reluctant to admit them, as many of the Falashmura belong to families that converted to Christianity, some of them several generations ago.
Those that have received visas are generally relatives of Ethiopian families already in Israel – but it turns out that many of these, too, are Christians. In 2017, nearly 600 of those migrants were self-declared Christians. The CBS only released numbers for 2017, but it’s likely that the numbers for previous years were similar, Yisrael Hayom said.
In a recent interview, Ethiopian journalist Inno Farda Sanbato said that “over the years, some 50,000 Ethiopians who call themselves Falash Mura have migrated to Israel. Much of this immigration has been unchecked, and those who authorize their entry often have their own interests for doing so. The Chief Rabbinate, for its own reasons, has chosen not to protest.”
Encouraging the migration, he added, were missionary groups in the U.S. that have representatives in Israel and Ethiopia. “The level of missionary activity in the Ethiopian community is very high,” he added.