'Asleep at the wheel' on Falash Mura aliyah

Liba Center member calls on Zionist, religious and haredi MKs to oppose mass aliyah of Ethiopian Jews due to their unclear Jewish status.

Benny Tocker ,

Ethiopian Jews protest to bring home their loved ones
Ethiopian Jews protest to bring home their loved ones
Corinna Kern/Flash 90

Yehuda Valed, a member of the Liba Center working to strengthen Jewish identity in Israel, spoke to Arutz Sheva on Monday about the recent decision to bring 1,300 Ethiopian Jews to Israel this year.

Those being brought in the aliyah are members of the 9,000 remaining Jews in the country, a number which primarily consists of Falash Mura - the descendants of Jews forcibly converted to Christianity generations ago.

As a result the Falash Mura must undergo conversion so as to clarify their Halakhic (Jewish legal) status as Jews, in a similar fashion to many of the million or so Russian Jews who made aliyah in the 1990s, most of whom have yet to clarify their status.

Valed called on the Zionist, religious and haredi MKs to stop the immigration of the Falash Mura, many of whom have family members in Israel who they have been separated from since the 1980s.

"On the issue of the Falash Mura we heard (Sephardic Jerusalem Chief) Rabbi (Shlomo) Amar who opposed, and also (Sephardic Chief) Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef," said Valed.

He noted that MK Avraham Neguise (Likud) - himself an oleh from Ethiopia who together with MK David Amsalem (Likud) was instrumental in causing the aliyah to happen - back in 2010 signed a document determining that there were no more Falash Mura in Gondar who needed to be brought to Israel.

"There's a complexity, because people don't want to get into topics in which they are liable to appear as racist," explained Valed regarding how MKs have avoided the issue.

He warned that the current Falash Mura aliyah sets a troubling precedent, and in the future Israel may naturalize others for whom it is unclear whether they have a Jewish or Christian identity.

Valed said some MKs have fallen asleep at the wheel regarding fateful Jewish issues.

"In issues related to the land of Israel and evacuating towns clear and sharp things are said, we want the same thing to happen in topics related to the Torah of Israel," he said.

"We come to wake them up, and bring clear statements of rabbis who are Torah greats. I believe that thanks to our activities, we helped a lot in the matter of the Kotel plan," said Valed, noting on the government decision to create a second Reform prayer space at the Western Wall.

He said that the Liba Center has great support from religious Zionist rabbis, adding, "behind us are rabbis and yeshiva deans, yeshiva students from all the yeshivas, Shavei Hevron, Mitzpe Ramon, Ramat Gan, Eli and more."

Valed explained the center plans to launch an information campaign in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem's Old City "on the matter of the Kotel and the Reform Jews."

"We think that everyone for whom the Jewish nature of the state is important needs to join, that's really something that cuts across party lines. Even in the elections, we are a non-political organization and we called to vote for anyone who will strengthen Judaism in the state."