But what was once celebrated as a heartwarming story of rescue and solidarity has taken on a less rosy tint, raising questions about racial acceptance in Israel. Israelis of Ethiopian descent, numbering around 150,000, say they often experience discrimination and excessive use of force by the police. Many of them have struggled to integrate into Israeli society and their rates of poverty and unemployment are high.
The position of the Falash Mura – a term some consider demeaning – is more tenuous than that of the larger population of Beta Israel.
Although many descendants of converts to Christianity are observant Jews, the Israeli government does not consider them to be entirely Jewish. They need special permission to emigrate to Israel and, upon arrival in the country, must undergo a conversion process, even if they already practice Judaism.
In November 2015, Israel approved a plan to bring the remaining Falash Mura, some 10,000 people, to its territory by the end of 2020. But a few months after the decision, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said that ‘he would not follow through on the plan. due to budget constraints. Since then, Israel has allowed around 2,000 Ethiopians to immigrate.
The plan approved on Monday would admit that about a quarter of the estimated 8,000 who remain live in mostly dilapidated communities in the Ethiopian cities of Addis Ababa, the capital, and Gondar. Some have been trying to move to Israel for 20 years.