After years of waiting, 43 members of the Falash Mura community landed in Israel on Tuesday on a flight from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
The immigrants, from nine different families who have been waiting years in a camp in Gondar to immigrate to Israel, will be housed in several absorption centers, including at Kibbutz Beit Alfa in the Jezreel Valley.
Falash Mura is the name given to those of the Beta Israel community in Ethiopia and Eritrea who converted to Christianity, often under duress, as a consequence of the mission during the 19th and 20th centuries.
The Falash Mura cannot immigrate under the Law of Return, because the Interior Ministry does not consider them to be Jewish, and therefore must get special permission from the government to move to Israel.
The 43 new immigrants were accompanied on their journey to Israel by a delegation of Likud members, including Minister of Immigration and Absorption Yoav Galant, Minister of Communications David Amsalem, and Ethiopian-born former Knesset members Gadi Jibrakan, who defected from Blue & White, and Avraham Neguise.
The new immigrants were reunited with family members at Ben-Gurion Airport.
“I haven’t seen my two brothers for eight years,” said Edisa Kanadi, 25, of Be’er Sheva. “They’ve been waiting for Gondar for 20 years. I’m so happy they have arrived in Israel, I cried a little,” she said.
“I immigrated to Israel without my two children,” said 60-year-old Zauda Bogala, who was at the airport to welcome five family members.
“I so very happy to finally see them and my three grandchildren,” she said. “I know there are other people who like me had been waiting for their loved ones, and I wish for them to all see them soon in our country.”
Bogala, who arrived in Israel last year and lives at the Beit Alfa absorption center, added: “This is my happy moment, hugging my grandchildren.”
A decision to bring all the remaining 8,00 or so members of the community to Israel was made back in 2015, but so far just less than one third have arrived.
Caretaker Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised in recent weeks that if he were elected on March 2, he would make it a priority in his first 100 days to bring the rest of the community to Israel.
The current interim government two weeks ago approved the immigration of 398 Falash Mura, aiming to complete the process before the elections.
The move was opposed by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, who argued that there was no urgent reason to bring the people to Israel at this time and that it was a clearly a politically motived decision.
Even so, the Population and Immigration Authority was only able to find in the time frame allotted 43 people in the Gondar camp who met new government-approved criteria.
In order to expedite their immigration, the Health Ministry put together a truncated vaccine procedure, through which the immigrants received some of the required vaccines before immigrating and the remainder will be administered after they arrive.