The Jerusalem Post

Israel appoints IDF reservist as envoy for Ethiopia aliyah crisis

 Ethiopian Israelis protest for more aliyah outside of weekly cabinet meeting. (photo credit: COURTESY OF STRUGGLE TO SAVE ETHIOPIAN JEWRY (SSEJ))
Ethiopian Israelis protest for more aliyah outside of weekly cabinet meeting.

Thousands of Ethiopian citizens claim they are entitled for aliyah, but Israel says that the aliyah from this country has ended.

The Israeli government has appointed a special envoy to investigate and then to recommend a solution for the aliyah crisis from Ethiopia. There are thousands of Ethiopian citizens who claim they are entitled for aliyah and the Israeli government says that the aliyah from this country has ended.

Aliyah and Integration Minister Absorption, Ofir Sofer, has appointed Brig. Gen. (res.) Harel Knafo to spearhead a team that will assess Israel's current immigration policy concerning Ethiopia on Wednesday. Pending approval from the Civil Service Commission, Knafo and his team will delve into the immigration challenges, particularly focusing on those awaiting aliyah in Addis Ababa and Gondar. They will subsequently submit their findings to Sofer.

In the past, Knafo held several key positions: he commanded the Inter-Army Command and Staff College, served as the Chief of Staff of the Southern Command, and led the 890th Battalion of the Paratroopers. He also headed the Shomron Brigade during the second intifada, commanded the Reserve Brigade of the Paratroopers, and was the chief of Bislamach – the school for infantry officers and professionals.

Earlier this week, Israeli citizens of Ethiopian descent and advocates for Ethiopian Jewish immigration assembled outside the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem. They demanded swift action to safeguard those eligible for Aliyah from the turbulent Gondar region. They highlighted to the Knesset that an astonishing 4,226 individuals from the camps in Gondar and Addis Ababa had filed requests for Aliyah. As the situation worsens in Ethiopia, particularly in areas like Gondar, those awaiting their journey to Israel face dire threats to their lives.


Israel executed rescue operation last week from Gondar

Last Thursday, Israel executed a significant rescue operation, evacuating over 200 Israeli and Ethiopian nationals from Ethiopia due to the intensifying conflict between the Ethiopian Army and the FANO militia. The rescue comprised three planes which transported Israeli citizens, Jewish Agency personnel, Project TEN volunteers, and immigrants. The joint initiative was a collaboration between the Prime Minister's Office and The Jewish Agency, with the security operations managed by the Jewish Agency's security officers.

 Harel Knafo. (credit: MEIR ELIPOUR)
Harel Knafo. (credit: MEIR ELIPOUR)

A coalition of advocacy groups supporting Ethiopian Jews voiced their concerns on Thursday. They emphasized, "The Department of Aliyah and Integration seems disconnected from reality." They added, "Thousands of Israelis, ranging from soldiers to ordinary citizens, took to the streets recently, expressing their frustrations over the government's seeming inertia. They're deeply concerned about our kin caught in the conflict near Gondar. A significant number of Jews are in imminent danger in Ethiopia, accentuated by the recent declaration of a state of emergency."

Out of these, 1,226 Jews have been officially recognized as qualified for immigration. However, despite its obligations, the Israeli government has not been proactive. The Minister of Absorption's silence is deafening. His decision to form a committee "to review the matter" seems like a mere tactic to buy time.

A report provided by the advocacy groups underscores the discrepancy between the reported figures and reality. "While news of the rescue operation in Gondar was heartening at first, the truth is only 44 out of the 204 rescued were eligible immigrants; the majority were Israeli citizens."