The Aliyah of the Falash Mura
Updated: Oct 14, 2020
The "Last and Final" Ethiopian Aliyah?
Since Operation Solomon small groups of Ethiopian Olim, known as the Falash Mura, began immigrating to Israel in small waves. The presence of the Falash Mura was virtually unknown to Israeli authorities until Operation Solomon, when they attempted to board the plane and were denied entry. The Falash Mura maintained that they were entitled to the Law of Return based off claims of ancestry.
The Prime Minister at the time, Yitzhak Shamir, was asked to decide on the matter of the Falash Mura, if they indeed had a legitimate claim. His response was,"First of all the Jews and then we shall see." The attitude towards the Falash Mura in Israel was that they may have been practicing Jews at one time, but the reality was that now many were converted Christians, and so did not qualify for the Law of Return. Beta Israel did not even consider the Falash Mura to be part of the Jewish people at this time.
Nevertheless, since the completion of Operation Solomon large groups of Falash Mura continued to migrate to the countries capital of Addis Ababa and camp where Beta Israel had previously settled, in an area known as "Andy's Compound." During this time the Falash Mura received a great deal of assistance and aid from the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. They had gained international attention and as time passed the demand to bring the Falash Mura to Israel intensified, especially from the families of those who already were living in Israel.
Under such public pressure the Absorption Ministry decided in the mid 1990s to bring to Israel those in "Andy's Compound" who had first-degree relatives already living in Israel. Then in 1997 Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced the beginning of the "last and final" Ethiopian Aliyah to Israel and four thousand Falash Mura were brought to Israel. The Jewish identity of the Falash Mura is still a contested issue within the Ethiopian community and greater Israeli society today.
These smaller operations were indeed not the final Aliyah as the government had stated and some 18,000 to 26,000 Falash Mura still await in Addis Ababa for their immigration to the Land of Israel. It is important to note that Falash Mura are only considered to be Jews until after they have immigrated to Israel, prior to their admittance they are still considered to be Christians. During their waiting period in Addis Ababa they undergo a re-establishment process to reconnect them with their Judaism.
(Information obtained from: https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/the-falash-mura)