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Thursday, November 10, 2005

Israel Reaches Immigration Deal with Ethiopia on Falashmura

Haaretz -- Israel said on Wednesday Ethiopia agreed to step up the immigration to the Jewish state of some 20,000 Falashmura, Jewish converts to Christianity who have complained of delays in their promised relocation.

Israel decided in February to double the immigration rate of Falashmura and complete the relocation of the entire community by the end of 2007.

"According to the understandings (with Ethiopia), we're now talking about a monthly immigration of 600 people to Israel, double the previous number," Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said.

There was no immediate confirmation from Ethiopian officials.

But still stuck in Addis Ababa and eager to escape poverty, hundreds of Falashmura held a hunger strike in a suburb of the Ethiopian capital in September.

Thousands of their brethren marched in Jerusalem last month to protest delays in plans to bring them to Israel. The Absorption Ministry blamed the hold-up on tensions in Ethiopia over a disputed May 15 parliamentary election.

Israel is home to more than 100,000 Jews of Ethiopian origin, who trace their roots to the biblical King Solomon and Queen of Sheba. The word Falasha means exiles in Ethiopia's Amharic language.

The Falashmura were converted - sometimes forcibly - to Christianity in the 19th and 20th centuries.

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