(August 24, 2018 / JNS) The family of Sintayehu Shafrao, a young Ethiopian who competed in Israel’s 2018 International Bible Contest but was told he was not allowed to remain, has been given the go-ahead to make aliyah.
Shafrao was allowed to take part in the annual contest in Jerusalem in April on the condition that he deposit money with immigration and border-control officials as a guarantee that he would return to Ethiopia following the event. Though his father and some of his siblings immigrated to Israel in the early 2000s, Shafrao and his mother and other siblings were never issued permission to move to Israel.
After the Israeli public expressed outrage over the government’s ultimatum to Shafrao, he was granted Israeli citizenship.
Shafrao is a member of the Falash Mura community, descendants of Jews who were forced to convert to Christianity in the 1800s and who are not eligible to make aliyah under the Law of Return.
The issue of Ethiopian aliyah has been mired in controversy due to questions as to the Jewishness of the applicants. In 2017, some 1,300 Ethiopians were allowed to move to Israel, with the Prime Minister’s Office and the Interior Ministry setting the quota at 1,000 for 2018.
In 2015, the government announced that it would bring in 9,000 Ethiopian immigrants in the ensuing five years from transit camps in Addis Ababa and Gondar.
Some of the applicants have family members who have already been allowed to live in Israel.