Decades-old efforts by the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) to bring Ethiopian Jews to Israel are to conclude with two final flights of 400 immigrants in late August. JAFI's envoy to Ethiopia, Asher Seyum, made the announcement in a brief letter, saying the agency would hand over its aid compounds in the Ethiopian city of Gondar to local authorities at the end of August.
For years the compounds, originally established by the North American Conference on Ethiopian Jewry and only recently taken over by the Jewish Agency, provided thousands of Ethiopians waiting to immigrate to Israel with educational, nutritional and some employment services. Once the final flights are complete, Ethiopians wishing to immigrate to Israel will be subject to the same rules as potential immigrants from elsewhere in the world and considered on a case-by-case basis, a New York-based spokesman for the Jewish Agency told the news agency JTA.
A steady trickle of approximately 200 Ethiopian immigrants per month has been coming to Israel since 2010, when the government decided to check the aliya eligibility of an additional 8,000 or so Ethiopians. The petitioners are known as Falash Mura, Ethiopians who claim links to descendants of Jews who converted to Christianity generations ago but who now seek to return to Judaism and immigrate to Israel. They have been accepted to Israel under different rules than those governing other immigrants.