Israel to allow in 8,000 Falash Mura from Ethiopia

Falash Mura arrive at Ben Gurion airport (19 January 2010) (Photo: Brian Hendler, Jewish Agency) Israel restarted the immigration scheme for Falash Mura in January

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Israel's cabinet has approved a scheme to allow into the country nearly 8,000 Ethiopians of Jewish descent.

Many members of the Falash Mura community are living in poor conditions in transit camps in northern Ethiopia.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israelis had a moral duty to resolve the "complex humanitarian crisis".

The Falash Mura's ancestors converted to Christianity under pressure in the 19th Century and so are not eligible to emigrate under Israel's Law of Return.

Thousands who were deemed eligible by Israel have arrived in smaller groups in recent years, but the flow was largely halted in 2008.

'Worst living conditions'

At the weekly cabinet meeting, Mr Netanyahu said the remaining Falash Mura would be brought to Israel over the next three years.

Start Quote

These are the seeds of Israel - men, women and children - that currently find themselves in the worst living conditions”

End Quote Benjamin Netanyahu Israeli Prime Minister

Six hundred would arrive as soon as next year, and in the three years that follow 200 would make the move each month, he added.

"The government of Israel wants to solve this problem, because there is a difficult humanitarian crisis there," the prime minister told ministers.

"These are the seeds of Israel - men, women and children - that currently find themselves in the worst living conditions," he added.

Ethiopia's last remaining Jewish community, the Falash Mura trace their roots to the biblical King Solomon.

But they are not eligible to enter Israel under the Law of Return, which guarantees a place in the country for every Jew, because they have largely been unable to prove they are Jewish.

Ethiopian Jews who kept their faith throughout centuries of adversity were flown to Israel by the thousands in the 1980s and early 1990s.

The last mass immigration was in 1991, when Israel organised an airlift of 15,000 people who had fled fighting at the end of Ethiopia's civil war.

More than 100,000 Jews from Ethiopia are believed to live in the country. They make up one of the poorest sections of Israeli society.

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