January 23, 2003
Interior Minister Eli Yeshai asked the
Cabinet this past week to agree to bring the 17,000 remaining members of the
Falashmura in Ethiopia to Israel. The Cabinet rejected the idea, but may
reconsider it after the elections. Rabbi Yisrael Rosenne, speaking with Arutz-7
today, explained why he is against the idea:
"Regarding the original Ethiopian Jews who came to Israel in Operations Moses and Shlomo, there was halakhic evidence proving their Jewishness, and they were recognized as Jews by rabbis such as Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef. But the Falashmura are a different story. Many of them converted to Christianity and/or intermarried, such that they are not recognized as Jews… At least half of them are simply not Jews, according to all opinions. Therefore the question is why Interior Minister Eli Yeshai is very justifiably against the immigration of non-Jews from Russia and South America, while in this case he is taking the opposite position... There seems to be a political goal to get the Ethiopian vote; even if the government turns down Yeshai's request, he will have gained points… By the way, it's important to note that much of the Ethiopian community here does not see the Falashmura as their brothers, and don't even want them to come - although there are others who do… I don't think that this is the job of the State of Israel at this point in time, to absorb this new community."
Interior Minister Eli Yeshai, interviewed next on Arutz-7, explained his position as follows:
"Everything is done according to Halakhah, which states that if a Jew converts, he is still considered Jewish. The Law of Return does not consider him eligible for automatic citizenship, but Jewish Law says he is Jewish; he will be judged in the Heavens as a Jew... Those among the Falashmura who are not Jewish at all will not be brought in, and those who are married to Jews and convert will be brought in. I only wish that the procedures regarding the Russians would be according to Halakhah in this manner. What happens in the former Soviet Union is that Jewish Agency representatives seek out people and ask if their grandfather's grandfather had any connection with a Jew, and then they say that he is eligible to immigrate under the Law of Return. They are bringing in total non-Jews, and all according to the Law of Return, which must be changed."