Although a majority of the Ethiopian Jewish community has immigrated to Israel, about 8,000 Jews still remain in a country where they face economic hardships and religious persecution. 70 to 80 percent of Ethiopia’s remaining Jews have first degree relatives in Israel, but the Israeli government’s lack of transparency regarding their immigration status has left the Ethiopian Jews in a limbo.
The Ethiopian Jewish community, also known as Beta Israel, has practiced Judaism for centuries despite dealing with anti-Semitism and economic hardships. Although a majority has already immigrated to Israel, about 8,000 Jews still remain in Ethiopia today. 70 to 80 percent of the remaining Jews in Ethiopia have first-degree relatives in Israel.
On November 11, 2015, the Israeli government ruled in Decision #716 to help the 9,000 Jews remaining in Ethiopia by bringing them to Israel. However, the government terminated the decision claiming that it did not have the proper budget to help the Ethiopian Jews with their Aliyah. Then on August 11, 2016, a new ruling (Decision #1911) was made to help 1,300 Ethiopian Jews make Aliyah to Israel within a 12-month period, the last set of whom are set to arrive in January 2018.
The Israeli government is set to decide in 2018 whether it will permit more Ethiopian Jews into Israel and MK Avraham Neguise, who himself was born in Ethiopia and immigrated to Israel in 1985, has been advocating for the Ethiopian Aliyah and fighting for the cause for years. Yet, the rest of the 8,000 Jews remain unclear as to their Aliyah status, still waiting for explicit answers from the Israeli government.
As the Jews in Ethiopia await their immigration, the living conditions are poor and many are currently unemployed since they left their villages years ago moving to larger cities in order to prepare for Aliyah. “For more than 20 years, we have been missing our relatives,” said 23-year-old Abere Endeshaw, a software engineering student at Addis Ababa University and the young Jewish leadership group coordinator in Ethiopia. “We are living in a situation where the local government does not accept us.”
“It is a government obligation to bring to Israel the entire Jewish community in Gondar and Addis who are waiting to make Aliyah,” stated Neguise. “They are in horrible conditions, suffering from separation from their families.”