Report: 4,000 Ethiopian Jews Expected in Israel by Next Month
JERUSALEM (AP) _ Nearly 4,000 Ethiopian Jews are expected in Israel by the end of next month following an agreement in Addis Ababa to let them emigrate, news reports said Thursday.
The renewed emigration appears to be the culmination of a four-month hiatus triggered by tensions between the Ethiopian government and Israel, Israeli television said.
Ethiopian leaders accused Israel of failing to honor agreements reached when the countries renewed diplomatic ties in October 1989, the report said.
It said tensions between Jerusalem and Addis Ababa had been eased but didn’t elaborate. Two official Israeli delegations have visited the Ethiopian capital to discuss the issue the past month.
Uri Gordon, chairman of the Jewish Agency’s Immigration Department, said 2,822 Jews have come to Israel from Ethiopia since January, the national Itim news agency reported. Another 1,000 are expected in the next five weeks, the television report said.
According to the television report, about 20,000 Jews remain crowded in difficult conditions in the Ethiopian capital awaiting permits to emigrate.
Television showed dozens of an immigrant group of 150 Ethiopians arriving at Ben Gurion Airport outside Tel Aviv before dawn Thursday. Most of the adults wore long white embroidered robes and turbans.
″For me today it is like the sunrise,″ newcomer Andshe Vorbaneh said.
An Israeli Parliament member visiting Addis Ababa charged Thursday that Israeli Embassy officials had arbitrarily denied some Ethiopian Jews visas, claiming they provided inadequate proof of Jewishness.
″Some people who had the right to demand the Law of Return had the right taken away from them,″ Shimon Shetreet said on Israel radio.
The 1950 law guarantees all Jews the right to immigrate to Israel.
The Foreign Ministry denied Shetreet’s charge, pointing out the ″very strict criteria for those who are entitled to enjoy the Law of Return and those that cannot.″
Jewish identity is passed maternally, and Israeli officials say spotty Ethiopian birth records make it difficult to prove Jewish backrounds.