Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

9 Iyar 5765 - May 18, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











More and More Goyim Want to Move to Israel

By G. Lazer

A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption said the cost of settling the Falashmura in Israel will total billions of shekels, according to reporter Yoav Yitzchak. The Israeli government has decided to bring over the entire Falashmura community in Addis Ababa.

The director of the Jewish Agency's immigration department, Mike Rosenberg, reported that he has asked US Jews to help fund their immigration to Israel. He told ranking officials from the North American United of Jewish Communities that the operation would cost $22.6 million (over NIS 100 million), not including the cost of absorption in Israel. The Jewish Agency allocated $18 million toward the operation and the Joint Distribution Committee pledged $4.6 million. Rosenberg said the Falashmura are immigrating at a rate of 300 per month, and that this rate is slated to double starting next month.

The Falashmura community consists of tens of thousands of Ethiopian Christians who claim they were forcibly converted from Judaism. In 1993 the Tzaban Commission, which was appointed to investigate the issue, recommended not recognizing the Falashmura as Jews, thus making them ineligible for aliya under the Law of Return. According to the recommendations only those who have close relatives living in Israel should be allowed to make aliya.

In 1997 the government decided to bring over all 4,000 Falashmura waiting in Ethiopia, but independent Jewish- American organizations then encouraged other members of the community to migrate to the camps in Addis Ababa, where they have been waiting under difficult living conditions ever since, reports Yoav Yitzchak.

Ethiopians who have been living in Israel for years oppose the aliya of the Falashmura, claiming they are Christians posing as Jews and do not even intermarry with them. According to directives issued by the Chief Rabbinate of Israel the Falashmura must undergo conversion after arriving in Israel.

The Falashmura are not the only ones seeking to settle in Eretz Yisroel and receive the government benefit package known as the "sal klita." There are also one million people in India claiming they are Jews entitled to exercise their rights under the Law of Return. According to Yoav Yitzchak, 300 Christian priests in the area of the India- Myanmar border held an emergency meeting last week over the "decision by the Chief Rabbi of Israel to bring to Israel some 6,000 members of the Bnei Menasheh community, which precipitated a major increase in the flow of Christians converting [sic] to Judaism with the hope of being able to immigrate to Israel." The head of the Christian community said the number of people calling themselves Bnei Menasheh has increased by over 50 percent in the past two years. Today the Bnei Menasheh belong to a tribe numbering over 900,000 people, the vast majority of whom are Christians.

In the past Israel agreed to allow 100 members of the community to immigrate annually, but during his term as interior minister Avraham Poraz ended this regulation, claiming "the matter must be looked into and the Indian government objects to this group's immigration to Israel." Individual envoys from Israel have taught a portion of the community Hebrew as part of an attempt to strengthen their Israeli identity.

The mainstream press reports that the Pines Committee, which will finalize Israel's immigration policy in the near future, might institute a strict immigration policy similar to European models. Among the proposals under discussion: prohibiting illegal residents from becoming citizens and imposing provisos for citizenship such as minimal income levels, age restrictions and ties to Israel—even in if the candidate for citizenship has an Israeli spouse, whether Arab or Jew. These types of conditions are accepted in European countries and recently there has been a trend to make them even stricter.

At the beginning of April Ariel Sharon convened a meeting at the Prime Minister's Office to discuss recommendations by the National Security Council to restrict immigration considerably. Sharon decided to accept the recommendations and it was decided at the meeting to set up a committee headed by Interior Minister Ophir Pines to formulate the immigration policy, including changes to immigration laws. In the Pines Committee, in government circles and among high- level academic figures there is broad agreement the policy must make it more difficult for non-Jews around the world to obtain Israeli citizenship by replacing the interim directive that only prevents family unity among Palestinians with general restrictions.

Yoav Yitzchak also reports an extremely far-reaching proposal by the Ministry of Internal Security to cease granting automatic citizenship to non-Jewish children born outside of Israel or to children with only one Israeli parent. Attorney- General Mani Mazuz also supports the tightening of the immigration policy. A document drafted by a team he heads recommended requiring illegal residents to leave the country for an extended "cooling-off" period before allowing them to obtain citizenship. The document apparently served as the basis for a bill by MK Moshe Kachlon (Likud) that was passed last summer in a preliminary reading with the support of the government. Pines said "a solution would be found for humanitarian cases."

The committee will also assess the possibility of an amendment to the Law of Return. Several committee members have proposed amendments in the past. Justice Minister Livni expressed support for the annulment of the law's grandfather clause to prevent the entry of people whose connection to Judaism is negligible. In 1999 Pines himself said annulling the clause should be discussed.

Pines and Livni support transforming the Law of Return into a foundation law, a stance that has met staunch opposition by chareidi representatives. Former Education Minister Prof. Amnon Rubinstein, who serves on the committee, supports expanding the Law of Return and applying it to whoever seeks to belong to the Jewish community.


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