Hundreds in Israel protest for rescue of Ethiopia Jews

AFP , Sunday 14 Nov 2021

Hundreds staged a protest in Jerusalem on Sunday to demand the Israeli government rescue Ethiopian Jews from the conflict-stricken country.

Ethiopian Israelis hold pictures of relatives during a protest calling for the government to bring their relatives remaining in Ethiopia to Israel, in front of the Prime Minister s office in Jerusalem, Sunday, Nov. 14, 2021. AP

"Aliyah (immigration) now!" and "Rescue them!", the demonstrators chanted outside Prime Minister Naftali Bennett's office, carrying pictures of family members.

A year of fighting in Ethiopia between Tigray rebels and government forces has left hundreds of thousands in famine-like conditions.

Among the demonstrators was Ethiopian-born Integration Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata, a member of Bennett's diverse coalition government.

"I vow not to abandon this battle to bring our families to Israel," she said.

According to a support committee, the interior and immigration ministries have agreed to assist in reuniting 5,000 Ethiopians with family members living in Israel.

But ministry officials, contacted by AFP, said no such decision has been taken.

Israel's Ethiopian Jewish community, known as Falashas, number more than 140,000. They often complain of discrimination and lack of government support.

In late 2020, the Israeli government authorised 2,000 Falashas with families in the Israel to immigrate.

The Falashas insist on aliya, or their "right of return", an Israeli law which allows Jews from anywhere in the world to resettle and obtain automatic citizenship.

Israeli religious authorities were slow to recognise the Ethiopians as Jews.

It was only in 1984, and then in 1991, that the Jewish state organised massive air lifts for around 80,000 Ethiopians, many of whom ended up living in the occupied West Bank.

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