For Immediate Release
NEW YORK, NOVEMBER 14 – Recently returned from a site visit to Ethiopian Falas Mura compounds in Addis Ababa and Gondar, an eight-member Subcommittee on Ethiopian aliyah of the United Jewish Communities (UJC) Israel and Overseas Pillar has filed a report containing several dramatic findings.
"It’s conceivable that aliyah applications on the Ethiopian end could be completed in about 90 days," said subcommittee chair Robert S. Reitman, of Cleveland.
The pace of aliyah application processing in Ethiopia has increased as the result of the implementation of direct application procedures in Addis and Gondar. Previously, processing of applications for aliyah was initiated only in Israel by relatives of those in Ethiopia, and the pace of processing was very slow.
"The Ethiopians waiting to make aliyah are heartened by the visible movement," said Len Cole, site-visit participant, and chair of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA). "With this enhanced application process, this is the first time they are able to initiate the process on their own."
According to the report, dated October 27, 2000, approximately 2,000 families in Addis and 1,100 families in Gondar had yet to initiate the application process for eligibility determination.
Once the applications are completed, the next critical phase of processing is the validation of applicant data, which is conducted by the Interior Ministry in Israel, where the majority of verification occurs through interviews with Ethiopian Israelis because almost no record of vital statistics is maintained in Ethiopia.
Here, the report notes that when the application-making process is completed in the next three months, the Interior Ministry in Israel "may well have a caseload of approximately 5,000 unresolved applications requiring investigation and adjudication."
According to the report, aliyah for the year 2000 has increased from 1,300 (in 1999) to 2,000 . Current estimates call for an additional 5,000 Ethiopian immigrant arrivals in Israel during the year 2001. The Subcommittee also believes that, with enhanced Ministry staffing, processing may be completed by end-of-December, 2001.
In observing the aliyah process first-hand, and in visiting the compounds in Addis Ababa and Gondar, which are maintained by the North American Conference on Ethiopian Jewry, the subcommittee also met with representatives of UJC’s overseas partners, the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC). JDC maintains medical clinics and nutritional programs for the Addis and Gondar compound populations. JAFI conducts cultural transition seminars and provides clothing to those individuals whose applications have been approved for aliyah to Israel-and then takes care of all arrangements for leaving Ethiopia, arriving in Israel and making the transition into Israeli society.
The group was also briefed by Ariel Kerem, Israel's Ambassador to Ethiopia, and the United States Ambassador to Ethiopia, Tibor P. Nagy, Jr.
The subcommittee also reported on the general well being of the Falas Mura in Addis and Gondar, concluding that this is a population at-risk.
"The situation of the Falas Mura has visibility beyond the Jewish world," said Reitman. "It cries out for a fair resolution with all deliberate speed."
A copy of the report will be available on the UJC web site at www.ujc.org . For hard copies, call 212.284.6542.
United Jewish Communities (UJC) , formed from the recent merger of United Jewish Appeal, the Council of Jewish Federations and United Israel Appeal, is the dominant fundraising arm for North American Jewry, and represents 189 Jewish Federations and 400 independent communities across the continent. It reflects the values and traditions of education, leadership, advocacy and social justice, and continuity of community that define the Jewish people.