Daily Israel Report

Falash Mura Held Up by Chicken Pox

A Knesset Committee learned today that the Aliyah of the Falash Mura tribe from Ethiopia is being delayed by chicken pox.
By Hillel Fendel
First Publish: 12/22/2010, 3:13 PM / Last Update: 12/22/2010, 4:06 PM

Flash 90

It was revealed late this morning in the Knesset Immigrant Absorption Committee that the Aliyah of the Falash Mura from Ethiopia to Israel is being delayed because of an outbreak of chicken pox at the transition camp in Gondar.

The government decided a month ago to allow the eligible members of the nearly-8,000 strong Falash Mura tribe in Ethiopia to immigrate to Israel over the next four years. The name of the tribe literally means “forced,” referring to the fact that they were forced to accept Christianity over a century ago. They have since sought to return to Judaism and immigrate to Israel. Over the past several years, many of them have made their way to the temporary camp in Gondar, hoping to be allowed to fly to Israel – and living under very difficult conditions in the interim

 “There are 7,846 people there today,” Avraham Negusa, a leading advocate for Ethiopian Jewry in Israel, told Israel National News last month, “but hopefully within the coming months many more will be born.” He said, however, that the camp is closed and that no one else is permitted to enter.

Official Conversion for All
All of the Falash Mura who are granted the right to move to Israel will have to undergo official conversion to Judaism, overseen by the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, to prevent any doubts as to their Jewishness. The Falash Mura converted to Christianity for economic reasons their own volition a hundred years ago, but their descendants are returning to Judaism..

Interior Ministry officials have arrived in Gondar to investigate the eligibility of the residents to immigrate to Israel. Three criteria are being applied: Are they biologically Jewish, and do they now simply wish to return to Judaism? Have they been listed in the Gondar registry since 2007? And do they have first- or second-degree relatives in Israel who have filed requests for their Falash Mura cousins to immigrate to Israel?

All 7,846 people are to receive a final answer as to their eligibility to immigrate to Israel by Aug. 1, 2011. In the meantime, 200 are scheduled to arrive each month. No further mass Aliyah programs from Ethiopia will take place after the four-year period.

The first group of 200, however, will not arrive for at least three weeks because of the chicken pox outbreak. Absorption Committee Chairman MK Danny Danon (Likud) said he will keep track of the developments, and plans to greet the new immigrants when they arrive.