Jerusalem, 17 November 1998

Immigration from Ethiopia

The Government of Israel convened an extraordinary meeting of the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora on the subject of Ethiopian Jewry on Friday, November 13th. The significance of the issue was indicated by both the number and importance of the participants: Minister of Trade and Industry Natan Sharansky (Chairman of the Committee); Minister of Absorption Yuli Edelstein; Minister of the Interior Eliahu Suissa; Chairman of the Knesset Committee on Aliyah MK Naomi Blumenthal; MK Addiso Messela; Director General of the Ministry of Finance Professor Ben Zion Zilberfarb; Director Generals of the Ministries of Justice and Absorption; Senior officials of the Foreign Ministry; Representatives of the Aliyah Department of the Jewish Agency for Israel; Representatives of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, and the Executive Vice President of the Joint Distribution Committee Michael Schneider.

The discussion that took place was thorough and comprehensive and the conclusions reached were unanimous.

1. The inter-ministerial committee reiterated Israel’s historic commitment to open its doors to every Jew who wants to return to Israel according to the Law of Return.

2. The committee re-established the fact that the Felas Mora group who are now in Ethiopia are not Jews. The committee agreed that disinformation, ignorance and lack of knowledge blurred the distinction between the Felas Mora population and Ethiopian Jews. Those desiring to immigrate to Israel must undergo an individual process of eligibility according to the laws of the State of Israel.

The inter-ministerial committee condemned as irresponsible the involvement of NACOEJ, South Wing to Zion Group and Rabbi Waldman in persuading Ethiopian citizens to leave their homes and villages to become refugees in Addis Adaba in order to put pressure on the State of Israel. As a result of this activity, a large percentage of Ethiopian citizens have become refugees in their own homeland and have been exposed to unnecessary risks of disease and malnutrition.

4. The inter-ministerial committee agreed to accelerate the aliyah of the Jews of Quara and Gondar according to the Law of Return. Towards this end, the Jewish Agency and the Ministry of Interior will streamline the procedures for issuing the appropriate permits. An expedited time schedule for the completion of this aliyah will be set. The appropriate voluntary organizations have been requested to render humanitarian aid to those eligible for aliyah under the Law of Return in Quara and Gondar, and to refrain from setting up compounds and new population centers in Addis Adaba.