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Falash Mura must be brought to Israel

From the Jerusalem Post Newspaper:

By Ruth Eglash
Dec. 8, 2009

The Israeli government and the Jewish Agency for Israel must immediately restart the stalled immigration process from Ethiopia and the organized Jewish community in the US must provide the funding for it, said Kadima MK Shlomo Molla, who headed a delegation of three MKs to Ethiopia last week and will present his findings to a special session of the Knesset on Tuesday.

“The humanitarian situation in Gondar [where those waiting to immigrate are based] is very difficult,” Molla told The Jerusalem Post on Monday. “It is the responsibility of the State of Israel to recognize these people for aliya and it is up to the Jewish Agency to bring them here.”

Molla, who will present his report to a joint session of the Knesset’s State Control and Aliya, Immigration and Diaspora committees, said he also planned to send the report to the Jewish Federations of North America and would call on it to implement a special operation, similar to 2005’s Operation Promise, to bring those still remaining in Ethiopia to Israel as soon as possible.

“The Jewish Agency needs to go in and help these people tomorrow,” said Molla, adding that there are some 8,700 Falash Mura – Ethiopians whose Jewish ancestors were forcibly converted to Christianity – still waiting to emigrate.

Most of those are believed to fit the criteria for aliya laid out by previous Israeli governments and many have family members already living here.

Abra Mulla, an Ethiopian immigrant now based in Lod, said his sister and her family are still stuck in Gondar with little, if any, humanitarian aid or medical assistance.

“I have to send her money each month in order for her to survive,” Mulla told the Post. “I have been trying to help her make aliya for more than five years but every time I go to the Interior Ministry, they tell me they cannot help me.”

Mulla’s story is shared by many in the 110,000-strong Ethiopian community in Israel, who have been separated from relatives due to the ongoing debate over this aliya, which some believe has become too costly.

A spokesman for JAFI said that Tuesday’s Knesset session would likely determine if and when the organization returns to Ethiopia to facilitate aliya from there.

“The Jewish Agency assumes responsibility for such a process only when it receives specific directives from the government,” he said, adding “all humanitarian aid is provided in the area by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee [JDC] and the North American Coalition on Ethiopian Jewry.”

MK Molla, however, was critical of JAFI’s failure to implement existing government policies, pointing out that a decision was made in September 2008 to continue the flow of aliya from Ethiopia.

“The government of Israel did make a decision to continue checking people,” he said. “And at the end of the day, the body responsible for bringing these people to Israel is theJewish Agency.”

Molla’s push for continuing aliya from Ethiopia comes just two weeks after the JDC reopened its medical facility in Gondar and following an informal announcement byJewish Agency Executive Chairman Natan Sharansky that he was in favor of bringing in those who remain.