View Full Version : Ethiopia's last 20,000 Falashas are allowed to fly to Israel

Saturday, January 10th, 2004, 12:05 AM

January 09, 2004

Ethiopia's last 20,000 Falashas are allowed to fly to Israel
By Jonathan Clayton

ISRAEL, faced with a sharp drop in annual immigration and an Arab population time-bomb on its doorstep, agreed yesterday with Ethiopia to allow 20,000 remaining Ethiopian Jews, also known as Falashas, to start leaving for the Jewish state next week.
Silvan Shalom, the Israeli Foreign Minister, told a press conference: “We would like to bring all Falashas to Israel beginning next week. We believe they should all live in Israel.” He had just made a two-day visit to the Horn of Africa country, believed to be the home of one of the biblical lost tribes of Israel.

The controversial deal extends, for the first time, the automatic right of return — Aliyah — to Ethiopian Jews who converted to Christianity in the 19th century as well as to the parents of any previous Ethiopian immigrant now in the Israeli armed forces. Many Falashas in Israel, who comprise one of the country’s poorest communities, said that their relatives were prevented from joining them because they could not prove their Jewishness.

But last February a special decision of the Israeli Cabinet ruled that the converts — known as Falasha Mura — still qualified as Jews because they had been forced by the Christian rulers of Ethiopia to convert or face death, even though they had missed out on traditional rites of passage.

The religious Shas party led the move, by which 17,000 Falasha Muras and 3,000 Falashas are expected to leave for Israel over the next few months.

Ethiopia, sensitive to allegations that it was auctioning citizens, is believed to have exacted a high price for its accord.

“Unfortunately, it has taken a long time, but I believe we should bring all the Falashas to Israel and the sooner the better,” added Mr Shalom, who led a 20-strong economic and trade delegation. It signed several business agreements with Ethiopia, which exports $18 million (£10 million) worth of goods annually to Israel.

The latest deal is certain to be criticised as a cynical move by Israel to purchase extra citizens, however studiously it avoids the mass airlifts of the 1980s and 1990s — dubbed Operation Moses and Operation Solomon. In those thousands of Falashas were spirited out of the country in weeks using passenger jets.

A British resident expert on Ethiopia, who asked not to be named, told The Times: “Basically, the Israelis want toilet cleaners who are not Palestinians. These people are so desperate they would go anywhere for a better life.”

Despite emphasising that Ethiopia would not allow a mass exodus, Seyoum Mesfin, the Foreign Minister, said that Ethiopia’s Jews had the right to go anywhere. “It is the constitutional right of every Ethiopian citizen including the Falashas to travel anywhere they like. The Ethiopian Government has no objection to Ethiopian Jews travelling to Israel.”

Most Falashas live in grinding poverty near the ancient capital of Gondar in northern Ethiopia, though some have been camped outside the Israeli Embassy in Addis Ababa for months in the hope of being among the first to leave. They will go on commercial flights in an operation run by Israeli volunteer groups.

Saturday, January 10th, 2004, 06:15 AM
I don't know if the one I met was typical or not. In high school we had a Holocaust class and had 2 Jewish visitors. Both of which were in their late teens and could never have been part of WW2 so I think they were there to discuss judaism. One of the two was an Ethiopian Jew. He looked very Jewish to me except for a darker tan than a typical israeli. He did not look like a black skinned african. Might have been some interracial offspring.

I was wondering if this is what they all look like?

Mac Seafraidh
Saturday, January 10th, 2004, 12:12 PM
Mussolini conquering of Ethiopia was goodtimes.