(JTA) – Sixty-three immigrants from Ethiopia made their long-awaited arrival in Israel.
Family members from the Ethiopian-Israeli community surrounded the newcomers, the first from the African nation in three years, after they touched down at Ben-Gurion International Airport on Sunday night.
Some 9,000 Ethiopians who claim Jewish descent, or Falash Mura, remain in the country awaiting their opportunity to come to Israel. About 100 new Ethiopian immigrants are expected to arrive each month.
In 2013, Israel’s Interior Ministry approved the immigration of the remaining Falash Mura, and the Knesset last November unanimously approved a plan to bring them over following a public campaign launched by the nation’s Ethiopian community and volunteer organizations. But the plan did not deal with the finances, which include the long-term costs of acclimating the immigrants.
An agreement to find money in the budget for the aliyah of the Falash Mura was signed in April.
The Falash Mura claim links to descendants of Jews who converted to Christianity generations ago but now seek to return to Judaism. The Interior Ministry accepts them as immigrants under the Law of Return, which is less restrictive than halachah, or traditional Jewish law.
About 135,000 Jews of Ethiopian descent are living in Israel. Some 22,000 Ethiopian Jews were airlifted to Israel during Operation Moses in 1984 and Operation Solomon in 1991.