Some 2000 fortunate Ethiopian Jews will immigrate to Israel by the year’s end after the Israeli parliament approved $52 million funds to facilitate the process.
The news has received mixed reaction given the 12,000 others who are left behind staring at a humanitarian disaster brought about by the covid-19 pandemic.
Dire economic conditions
As of now, no reports of covid-19 cases among the Ethiopians in Gondar and Addis Ababa awaiting their move to Israel.
Meanwhile, in the covid-19 count keeps growing every day at an average daily rate of 1500 and over 1000 deaths. Other challenges such as hunger and malnutrition are being witnessed too. Limited government assistance has reached the Ethiopian jews, prompting the Struggle To Save Ethiopian Jewry (SSEJ), to directly raise funds to aid those in dire need of assistance.
Activists set the number of those waiting to immigrate to Israel at 9.000, with some having to wait over for 2 decades. The Jewish community’s numbers are spread around the capital Addis Ababa and Gondar city.
Thousands of the hopefuls left their homes and farms to take up casual jobs as they await that day they shall be airlifted to Israel. Many are huddled in mud thatched houses alongside Christian neighbors.
Are Ethiopian Jews internal refugees?
The covid-19 pandemic has hit the Ethiopian Jewish community had according to reports by the Times in Israel. Most of the casual work they relied upon to fend for themselves has dried up, while the food remains in short supply sending prices up the roof.
Family members who they relied upon in Israel are also cash strapped as they face their own financial challenges. The same situation applies to philanthropic organizations that are having a hard time raising funds due to the pandemic.
Relief work by charity organizations
Dr. Morris Hartstein, a medical officer with SSEJ has been offering eye care services to the community. As an American born Israeli specialized in ophthalmic, plastic, and reconstructive surgery at the Yitzhak Shamir Medical Center outside Tel Aviv, his voluntary services have helped many Jews and Christians alike.
He points out the dire situation of malnutrition faced by the internal refugees who are facing a likelihood of starvation.
Proud of my friend Dr. Morris Hartstein who has volunteered nearly a dozen times in the Jewish community in Ethiopia, providing eye-restoring operations and medicine to members of the community as they await immigration to Israel. @AmySpiro @J_Insider https://t.co/tkbbKPRbn2
— Alisa Bodner (@AlisaBodner) May 24, 2020
Israeli minister’s ambitious plan
Pnina Tamano-Shata made history as the first elected Member of Parliament and Cabinet Minister of Ethiopian descent. She is personally involved in Aliyah and Immigration absorption where a $382.6 million proposal was presented to the Knesset Aliyah committee.
Once adopted, it should see 8.000 immigrate to Israel and the camps at Addis Ababa and Gondar shut down for good. Part of the funding for this initiative has been allocated.
Once implemented, 4500 Ethiopian jews could end up in Israel by the close of the year. Of course, they must meet the 2015 conditions that were agreed upon. However, a special committee looking at special cases will be set up, including an appeal avenue for anyone turned down.
Approval will depend on proof of having waited at the camp since December 2015 (latest) and having a second-degree Ethiopian relative already residing in Israel. 3500 more people will get airlifted within the 2021 and 2022 period.
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