Israel’s government on Sunday approved the immigration of 3,000 Ethiopians whose relatives in the Jewish state have demanded their rescue from the conflict-stricken country.
A statement from Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s office said cabinet unanimously agreed to allow 3,000 Ethiopians who have first-degree relatives in Israel to enter the country “immediately”.
It identified those with “first-degree relatives” as having a parent, child or sibling in Israel.
“Additionally, a person whose parents came to Israel and died here, will also be allowed to immigrate,” it added.
“Those eligible for immigration will be allowed to bring with them their spouses, minor children, and unmarried adult children.
Immigration Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata, the first Ethiopian Jewish woman elected to Israel’s parliament, hailed the move.
“This is an important decision for the Ethiopian community in Israel and their families,” she said.
“Finally, parents, children, siblings and orphans will be reunited with their families after decades of waiting.”
The move comes as a year of fighting in Ethiopia between Tigray rebels and government forces has left hundreds of thousands in famine-like conditions.
Earlier this month, hundreds demonstrated in Jerusalem to demand action from the government, with protesters chanting “rescue them”.
The Ethiopians who have been approved for immigration are members of the Falash Mura, descendants of Ethiopian Jews who converted to Christianity — many under duress — in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Known as Falashas, they are not recognised as Jews by Israel’s Orthodox rabbinical authorities, but claim the right to immigrate under family reunification rules.
In 2015, the government approved about 9,000 claimants but then rescinded the decision the following year, citing budgetary constraints.
In October last year, the Israeli government approved immigration plans for 2,000 Ethiopians after faced extended delays.
Israeli religious authorities were slow to recognise the Ethiopians as Jews.
It was only in 1984, and then in 1991, that the Jewish state organised massive air lifts for around 80,000 Ethiopians, many of whom ended up living in the occupied West Bank.