Ethiopian Jews in plea to Israel
Addis Ababa - Ethiopia's dwindling Jewish community, known as the Falash Mura, on Tuesday said their living conditions at home were desperate and appealed on Israel to keep its pledge to welcome them.
"We are suffering, people are dying, we have nothing. Three hundred people, at least, died only during the last year because of diseases or malnutrition," the community's leader Sisay Berhan told reporters.
"We are suffering from TB and other diseases because of malnutrition. We cannot find jobs," he added.
Sisay claimed that around 1 000 Falash Mura still lived in the Ethiopian capital and "many others" in the northern city of Gondar.
"The Israeli parliament decided that we should go there in Israel but it is not happening, families are still divided, some here, some there," he said.
The Falash Mura are the descendants of Ethiopian Jews who converted to Christianity, many of them under duress, in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Israel organised its first airlift - known as Operation Moses - of 15 000 Falash Mura in 1984. Tens of thousands more were flown in during Operation Solomon in 1991.
Israel later promised to fly in Ethiopia's remaining Falash Mura but the transfers were routinely delayed. The community even held a hunger-strike in Addis Ababa five years ago to complain.
The Jewish state is now home to an Ethiopian community of more than 100 000 but in 2007 imposed tougher conditions on further emigration, amid fierce debates over some of the candidates' Jewishness.
Many of Ethiopia's Falash Mura already have relatives in Israel and see immigration to the Jewish state as an opportunity to escape from one of the world's poorest countries.