Ethiopian Aliyah (immigration to Israel) resumed Tuesday morning at 3 a.m., with the landing of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 404 with 81 new immigrants of the Falashmura community. Joyful reunions of relatives who had not seen each other for ten years were held throughout the welcoming hall.
This was the first flight of Falashmura since August 2008, when the immigration was completed of all those found eligible by a government decision of 2003. Another 63 new immigrants from Ethiopia are expected to arrive on Wednesday.
Leading rabbis, such as former Chief Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef, have found that though the Falashmura converted to Christianity a century ago under duress, they never "married out" and therefore the community as a whole can be judged to be Jewish. "Giyur l'chumrah," or "conversion just to make sure," is still required; this can be effected in various ways.
Representatives of both the Interior Ministry and Jewish Agency have been in Ethiopia in recent months, examining the eligibility of members of the Falashmura community to immigrate to Israel, according to criteria set by the Interior Ministry. The immigration of some 600 additional Falashmura members has been approved and are slated to arrive in Israel over the next few months, and another 2,000 of the community are expected to receive permission in the course of 2010.
As was the case in previous Ethiopian immigration waves, the new immigrants will be housed in the Jewish Agency's absorption centers around the country.
An official welcoming ceremony was held at Ben Gurion Airport Terminal 1 in the Absorption Hall, with the participation of Minister of Immigrant Absorption Sofa Landver and Interior Minister Eli Yishai. Eli Cohen, Director of the Jewish Agency's Aliyah and Absorption Department, was also on hand.