Ethiopian kessim (high priests) and rabbis charged Monday at a conference in Rehovot that many of the Falash Mura conduct Christian missionary activity within the Ethiopian immigrant community. Hundreds of Ethiopian Jews attended the “Ending Missionary Activity in the Community” conference, a fact that attests to the depth of concern over the issue.

The Falash Mura are said to be the descendants of Ethiopian Jews who were forced to convert to Christianity several generations ago. According to members of the Ethiopian Jewish community in Israel, the Falash Mura have no desire to return to the Judaism of their ancestors.

“We came [to Israel] to be Jews,” said the community leaders. “We weren’t different from the Christians in skin color – we were different from them only because of our Judaism. The missionary activities have crossed red lines and could set the community aflame and cause bloodshed,” they warned.

The conference appointed a committee led by the kessim, which will create a list of missionaries as well as a map of the Christian missions in each city, and submit them to the Interior Ministry. The community’s leaders intend to ask the Interior Ministry to bar Falash Mura from marrying Jews and block their burial in Jewish cemeteries.

Israel has absorbed more than 100,000 Ethiopian Jews and Falash Mura in the past 20 years. Currently 300 Ethiopians are being brought to Israel each month. Ethiopian Israeli advocacy groups are demanding that the number be increased to 600 and that Jewish aid services in Ethiopia be extended to an additional 7,800 people.