From the Jerusalem Post:
Falash Mura aliya from Ethiopia should be stopped immediately and Israel should focus on becoming a "real state" rather than a "committee" for the Jewish people, according to Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit.
Speaking to The Jerusalem Post earlier this week, he said the immigration of the Falash Mura - people whose Jewish ancestors were forcibly converted to Christianity centuries ago - was a mission that is impossible to finish.
Asked whether this stance would put him in direct conflict with organized US Jewry, which has been actively involved in supporting and funding the immigration of an estimated 4,500 remaining Falash Mura, he responded: "I don't care."
"If they want to take care of them, take them to America," Sheetrit said. "I haven't seen them take even one Ethiopian to America. In the meantime, Israel is the only country to get Ethiopians, and we accept them with open hearts."
He said his stance was not racist, adding: "Try to become a citizen of Switzerland. Will they take you there? You can only dream of it, but does anyone call them racists? No."
Sheetrit said the best solution would be to close the door to mass aliya and to assess each application for citizenship on an individual basis.
"I say, let's give every Jew the possibility to have temporary citizenship in Israel, and then let's check after five years," he said. "Then nobody can come to you with allegations of racism."
Who are the Falash Mura? The Jewish Virtual Library explains:
Ethiopian Jews have been the targets of missionaries for many decades. When the missionary activity intensified at the end of the 19th century, large numbers of the Beta Israel community converted. From approximately that time until Israel began to actively help the Jews immigrate, members of the Beta Israel community have abandoned their faith. Some did so because they were pressured or persuaded by the missionaries, others responded to social pressure and some may have viewed conversion as a way to improve their economic condition (for example, they could then own land). These people who had once been Jews, or, more often, whose ancestors had been Jews, are referred to as the Falash Mura.
The Israelis find themselves in a no-win situation. They do not want to simply accept unlimited immigration from Ethiopia. They are convinced that tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians will claim Jewish heritage if they do not follow strict procedures for determining eligibility to immigrate. In the meantime, the large numbers of Falash Mura who settled in camps in Gondar and Addis have created a severe humanitarian problem. They need jobs, shelter, food. These needs cannot be ignored, but, at the same time, if better services are provided, it will only attract more Falash Mura to the camps.
The Falash Mura are also in an impossible situation. While Jews virtually everywhere else in the world stay in their homes until they are given permission to immigrate, the Ethiopians uprooted themselves and have nowhere to go. Their land, cattle and homes have been bought or confiscated by their neighbors. It no longer matters why they left, whether by force, coercion or encouragement from activists, they are now living as urban slum dwellers. They will either be cared for by humanitarian organizations, allowed to immigrate to Israel, live a subsistence existence or die.
In early 2001, nearly 20,000 Falash Mura remained in camps in Gondar and Addis. Approximately 8,000 live in their villages near the camps. The Israelis accelerated their consideration of applications. The first priority was being given to divided families, then those eligible under the Law of Return and finally humanitarian or rare special cases. About one of three applicants was found to be eligible.
The Falash Mura received additional support in 2002 when Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef, whose 1973 recognition of the Beta Israel as Jewish had paved the way for the large-scale immigration of Ethiopian Jews, declared that the Falash Mura had converted out of fear and persecution and therefore should be considered Jews.
The real problem here is that Interiour Minister Sheetrit is suggesting that Israel abandon the Law of Return which states that any Jew can become a citizen of Israel automatically. Sheetrit is essentially saying that he would like to put an end to the idea of a Jewish State. Without aliyah, Israel could not possibly survive. Sheetrit suggests that the United States take in the Falash Mura but he is ignoring the fact that the US has no obligation to help them while Israel, as the Jewish State, does. Why is there such apathy when it comes to helping black Jews? There are thousands of Ethiopian Jews waiting in Addis Adaba to make aliyah and yet only 300 are allowed to come per month. However, if 10 000 French Jews would want to make aliyah tomorrow, there would be no quotas. The Falash Mura are full Jews in every sense and only converted under duress. As long as they accept to return to Judaism and to abandon Christianity, they have every right to return to Israel.
The Sephardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar was sent secretly to by Torah sage Rav Ovadiah Yosef to Africa to investigate the Jewish roots of the Falash Mura. Rav Ovadia Yosef eventually declared them full Zera Yisrael, Descendants of Israel. They consider themselves to be descendants of the lost tribe of Dan and in case their Jewishness is in doubt, they all undergo an Orthodox conversion upon landing in Israel.
The day when Israel abandons the Law of Return will be the day that the Zionist dream dies. Lets hope that that day never comes.
Thursday, August 2, 2007
From the Jerusalem Post: