With borders around the world closed due to coronavirus, Israel is making a special effort to bring more people into their country by approving a plan on Sunday to help 2,000 Ethiopian Jews immigrate to the Holy Land. The immigrants, from a group of Jews in the African nation who are known as the Falash Mura, are expected to arrive in 2021, according to an Israeli press release.
“This government decision will enable the dreams of families that have been separated for over a decade to come true—to finally be reunited, in Israel,” Isaac Herzog, Chairman of The Jewish Agency, said in the press release. “It is our moral duty to answer the prayers and pleas of those waiting in Ethiopia to come to Israel.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday said the move fulfills a promise he made six months ago to help the Jews immigrate to Israel, which is known as aliyah in Hebrew. Netanyahu, speaking in a separate press release published by his office, said they would also “act to bring all of the rest” of the Ethiopian Jews to the Jewish State.
The move is done in coordination with the Ethiopian government. “A few days ago, I spoke with another friend of mine, the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Abiy Ahmed,” said Netanyahu. “He said that he will give all assistance to the important action that we are now doing. Ethiopia is open to this action and the diplomatic cooperation between us is—of course—facilitating the aliyah of the remaining Ethiopian Jews without hindrance.”
There are thousands of Jews in Ethiopia, believed to be descendants of converts influenced by the Queen of Sheba following her visit to learn the wisdom of Israel’s King Solomon millennia ago.
The Israeli press release detailing reactions of the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) and The Jewish Agency noted that the two agencies have coordinated to bring more than 92,000 Ethiopian immigrants to Israel over the last forty years. The press release noted that most of the Jews in Ethiopia have left homes to move to the major Ethiopian cities of Gondar and Addis Ababa to wait for the travel to Israel. The Israeli press release noted that “despite their ongoing limbo and harsh conditions, the communities in these cities maintain a strong Jewish identity and carry out daily Jewish rituals.”
“Helping Ethiopians and Jews worldwide come home to Israel is one of clearest demonstrations of our love and commitment to the State of Israel, which is central to our core mission,” said Mark Wilf, Chair of JFNA’s Board of Trustees, in the press release.
While COVID-19 is not preventing Israel from moving forward with the immigration commitment, it will likely impact the new arrivals. The Israeli press release noted that all immigration to Israel is done in line with the guidelines from the Israeli Ministry of Health. The Jewish Agency arranges for any necessary quarantines as part of that process. During the COVID-19 pandemic, The Jewish Agency has helped more than 300 emigrate from Ethiopia to Israel.
The press release noted that the cost of the immigration is “high” because of coronavirus restrictions, and that’s just part of the broader cost to bring Jews home to Israel. It’s obviously a price worth paying now and in the future.
“In recent years, we have brought about the aliyah of many thousands of our people in Ethiopia and we will continue to do so,” said Netanyahu. “At the same time, we have invested vast budgets of tens of millions on the absorption and integration of the immigrants, and in advancing and strengthening the community in various fields, and we will also continue to do this.”
(By Joshua Spurlock, www.themideastupdate.com, October 13, 2020)