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The Last of Ethiopian Jewry Heads to Israel

The final stages of immigration to carry into 2014

Adam Chandler
October 29, 2012

A charter flight landed at Ben-Gurion Airport today carrying 240 Ethiopian Jews who are making aliyah to Israel. The Falash Mura–who were traditionally Jewish but converted to Christianity–have been immigrating in small waves since the daring Operation Solomon rescue in 1991. This effort is being described as the final stage of Ethiopian Jewish immigration to Israel, which aims to bring the final 2,200 Jewish Ethiopians by 2014.

This is a wonderful story, but as Daneilla Cheslow wrote for us back in 2011, the 120,000 Ethiopian Jews who live in Israel now have not managed to fully acculturate.

According to the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics, in 2008 the unemployment rate of 13.8 percent among Ethiopian immigrants was more than double the national average. Ethiopians were statistically younger than the overall Jewish Israeli population, with four times as many single-parent families. While 17 percent of Jewish Israelis were on some sort of welfare, Ethiopian-Israelis receiving state support ran at 61 percent. Their children scored lower on school tests and were more likely to drop out of high school than their veteran Israeli counterparts. This is surprising because a third of Ethiopian-Israelis were born in the Jewish state, which would seem to portend better integration.

Also, when placed against the backdrop of the efforts by the Israeli government to deport African migrants, the true complexity of Israel’s immigration policy and concerns about its demography shine through.

Adam Chandler was previously a staff writer at Tablet. His work has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, Slate, Esquire, New York, and elsewhere. He tweets @allmychandler.