Activists, Ethiopians say it’s time to bring the last Jews of Ethiopia to Israel
Seffi Blilin moved to Israel from Ethiopia nine years ago with her mother, father and four siblings. Her two older, married siblings were considered separate families and could not come over on the same immigration visa.
“We were told it would be a week, maybe a month,” Blilin told Breaking Israel News. “But they never made it here. We have not seen my sisters for nine years. My father died of heartache. My mother cries herself to sleep every night.”
Blilin’s family is Jewish. Two of her younger siblings are serving in combat units in the IDF. But while she continues to pressure the Ministry of Interior to bring her siblings home, there has been little action. She said they tell her that there is not enough money in the budget.
“They are Jews and they should be allowed to make Aliyah,” Blilin said.
On Tuesday, more than 100 activists and family members of the remaining 8,000 Jews in Ethiopia gathered in front of the home of Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, begging him to act to bring these Jews to Israel. The activists are protesting weekly on Tuesdays until a June 18 meeting of the special ministerial committee on the issue of Aliyah from Ethiopia. The fate of the 8,000 remaining Ethiopian Jews waiting to make Aliyah to Israel could be decided at the meeting.
In 2015, Government Decision No. 716 was passed, which calls for the approval of the immigration of 8,000 Jews who are waiting to make Aliyah. However, the government has not implemented the decision.
According to A.Y. Katsof, the Jews of Ethiopia are living in extreme poverty. Katsof is the director of The Heart of Israel, which is running a crowdfunding campaign to bring these Jews back to Israel and resettle them in the Biblical heartland.
Katsof said most Ethiopian Jews eat only one meal a day.
“They live in terrible conditions, in tiny, one-room mud huts with no sanitation,” said Katsof. “If they have food to cook, they prepare it on a coal or wood fire. As many as 100 people share a single bathroom. Nonetheless, they continue to remain hopeful and faithful to Judaism, Jerusalem and God.”
Adina Mekonen, an Ethiopian immigrant who today lives in Petach Tikva, volunteered in Ethiopia last Passover. She said “people are dying of hunger. You would not believe they can make it through the day.
“When I left, they said to me, ‘Don’t forget me,’” she continued. “But they have been forgotten.”
At the protest, dozens of Ethiopians told their stories. Mamush [last name withheld], for example, moved to Israel 10 years ago with her husband and oldest child. Since then, she has been waiting for her mother to be granted permission to move to Israel, too.
“My mother never met my youngest children,” Mamush told Breaking Israel News. “I want my family to be here in Israel. It is so hard to be alone.”
She said, “We are Jews, this is our land and we want to be in Israel.”