The Knesset Committee for Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs held a joint meeting with the Internal Affairs Committee on Monday to discuss the delay in the implementation of government`s decision from three months ago to bring the remaining Ethiopian Jews to Israel.
”This is a heart-breaking human tragedy,” said MK Avraham Naguisa (Likud), head of the Immigration Committee. ”We are very disappointed and angry that the committee that was set up for this purpose has not submitted any recommendations for implementation and continues to drag its feet. The government ministries must open their hearts to the pain of the members of the [Ethiopian Jewish] community. Their relatives approach me on a daily basis and cry.”
Internal Affairs Committee Chairman MK David Amsalem (Likud) noted that none of the members of the taskforce in charge of bringing the Jews from Ethiopia to Israel were present at the meeting, including the deputy director general in the Prime Minister`s Office, who is in charge of the special committee, as well as the head of the Population Administration.
MK Naguisa with Ethiopian immigrants (archives)
”Meanwhile, the Jews in Gondar are living in very difficult conditions, and until they make Aliyah we must make sure they receive food and health services,” he said. ”Each day that they wait there is hell; the surrounding population is hostile and the conditions are very difficult.”
PMO representative Hila Tal-Avital, who coordinates the work of the committee in charge of planning the transfer of the Ethiopian Jews to Israel, said it would submit its operational proposal within two weeks.
Former Supreme Court President Meir Shamgar, chairman of The Public Council of Ethiopian Jewry, called to move ”from words to actions,” and said ”I fear that with all these meetings we will forget that there are Jews waiting there.”
MK Yoel Razvozov (Yesh Atid) stressed that a government decision ”of this scale” should be budgeted. ”We have failed, and with the help of the [Immigration] Committee chairman we will fight to provide budgets for Israelis of Ethiopian descent,” he stated.
Omer Barlev (Zionist Camp) said ”Separated families are not something that is acceptable in a Jewish state. In the 1990s, when the State of Israel decided to bring hundreds of thousands of Jews from the former Soviet Union, it managed to do so, so there is no reason why, in 2016, it should take five years to bring all [of Ethiopia`s Jews] to Israel.”
Fellow Zionist Camp MK Revital Swid said ”It was shocking to see the condition of the communities there, from an economic ad medical perspective, and also the great yearning to make Aliyah to Israel.”
Cabrito Ezra, whose family has been waiting in Addis Ababa for years, warned of a fierce public struggle if the delays in bringing Ethiopia`s Jews to Israel continue. Yehuda Sharf, director of the Jewish Agency`s Aliyah, Absorption and Special Operations Unit, said ”we cannot begin dealing with bringing people to Israel until we receive lists of names, and we will not receive these lists before the committee concludes its work.”