JERUSALEM (JTA) – Some 1,300 Ethiopians who claim Jewish descent will begin arriving in Israel in June, with 9,000 coming over the next five years, under a new Israeli government agreement.
The agreement to find money in the budget for the aliyah of the Ethiopians was signed Thursday, avoiding a government crisis.
Two Likud Party lawmakers had boycotted voting in the Knesset for the past two months over the dispute, leading to the failure of a party-sponsored bill. The coalition government has a one-vote majority in the Knesset.
The Knesset unanimously approved a plan in November 2015 to bring the remaining 9,000 Ethiopians who claim Jewish heritage following a public campaign launched by the Ethiopian community in Israel and volunteer organizations. The plan did not deal with the finances.
In February it was announced that the government approval to bring over the 9,000 Ethiopians, known as Falash Mura, would be on hold indefinitely until the nearly $1 billion needed to fund the immigration was found in the budget.
Falash Mura are Ethiopians who claim links to descendants of Jews who converted to Christianity generations ago but now seek to return to Judaism and immigrate to Israel. Their permanent entry into Israel will be dependent on completing the conversion process.
About 135,000 Jews of Ethiopian descent are living in Israel. Tens of thousands of Ethiopian Jews were airlifted to Israel during Operation Moses in 1984 and Operation Solomon in 1992.
Israel announced in August 2013 that it had brought the last of the eligible Falash Mura to the country after a steady trickle of approximately 200 Ethiopian immigrants per month had been coming to Israel since 2010, when Israel launched Operation Wings of a Dove after checking the aliyah eligibility of an additional 8,000 Ethiopians. Many of those remaining have family who are already in Israel.