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      Hundreds Demand Falash Mura Immigration

      Hundreds of Ethiopian Jews demonstrated outside the PM's office, demanding: "Bring to Israel the 20,000 Falash Mura stuck in Ethiopian camps."
      By Hillel Fendel
      First Publish: 1/10/2010, 4:02 PM / Last Update: 1/10/2010, 5:21 PM

      Hundreds of people, mostly Israelis who immigrated from Ethiopia in recent years, demonstrated outside the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem on Sunday morning. Their demand: "Bring to Israel the nearly 20,000 Falash Mura stuck in camps in Adis Ababa and Gondar."

      The protestors held colorful signs reading  "Bring back Mommy and Daddy," "No More Discrimination"  and "Stopping the Aliyah is a Crime Against Zionism," among others.

      The issue of the Falash Mura has been a no-winner for Israel for 20 years. After converting to Christianity over 100 years ago for economic reasons, their contemporary descendants said they have never left their Jewish identity. On the other hand, they are accused of not having sought to reclaim their Jewish identity or immigrate to Israel until after thousands of non Falash Mura Ethiopian Jews, the Beta Yisrael, were successfully brought to Israel in the late 1980s and early 1990s. In addition, it is claimed that as time goes on, more and more Ethiopians claim Jewish ancestry.

      The issue became acute when thousands of Falash Mura poured into temporary transient camps in Adis Ababa and Gondar, leaving behind all their possessions and becoming, for all intents and purposes, urban refugees. The bottom line, as Mitchell Bard has written for Jewish Virtual Library, is that they "will either be cared for by humanitarian organizations, allowed to immigrate to Israel, live a subsistence existence, or die."

      Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar has ruled that the Falash Mura community should be treated as Jews, although each case should be checked individually. The Falash Mura who come to Israel must undergo a Halakhic (Jewish legal) procedure akin to conversion called "returning to Judaism" which includes appearing before a Rabbinic Court and immersion in a ritual bath. . He said he hopes that as many of them as possible will be allowed to immigrate to Israel. Other rabbis disagree with his ruling.

      Fewer than 500 Ethiopian Jews arrived in Israel during the first 30 years of the State of Israel. Nearly 17,000 arrived in the 80s, and almost 40,000 came in the 90s - including 14,325 in one 36-hour period in May 1991 in Operation Solomon.  Over the past several years, 300 Falash Mura have been brought to Israel each month. Flash Mura supporters say that number must be doubled, at least.