Ethiopia's Falash Mura repatriated to Israel

Jewish immigrants from Ethiopia kiss the ground upon their arrival at Ben Gurion International Airport on 28 August 2013 Ethiopia's Jews have waged a long campaign to migrate to Israel

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About 450 Ethiopians of Jewish descent have been repatriated to Israel, concluding an Israeli government-backed scheme to relocate the community.

Their migration was "historic", Israel's Minister of Absorption Sofa Landver is quoted as saying.

Many members of the Falash Mura community lived in poor conditions in northern Ethiopia.

The Falash Mura's ancestors converted to Christianity under pressure in the 19th Century.

They have been waging a decades-long campaign to be allowed to settle in Israel.

'Welcomed'

Their campaign has been plagued by controversy, as some Israelis questioned their Jewish links while others accused the government of not doing enough to help them.

Start Quote

I am proud to take part in this historic event”

End Quote Sofa Landver Government minister

In 2010, the Israeli government agreed to resume its repatriation programme, dubbed Operation Dove's Wings, after it was halted two years earlier.

The 450 migrants had been living in transit camps in Gondar city in northern Ethiopia, as they waited to go to Israel.

They were the last of some 8,000 Ethiopians who qualified for repatriation under the scheme.

The group flew into Israel's Ben Gurion airport in two chartered flights, with their relatives on hand to welcome them.

"Three years after I advised the prime minister of Israel to bring Operation Dove's Wings to an end, to close the compound in Gondar and to complete the journey of organised aliyah [migration] from Ethiopia, I am proud to take part in this historic event," Ms Landver said, the Jewish Press reports.

Some 12,000 members of the Falash Mura community in Ethiopia have not been granted permission to move to Israel, the Times of Israel newspaper reports.

About 90,000 Ethiopian Jews have immigrated to Israel since it was founded in 1948.

They make up one of the poorest sections of Israeli society.

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