Thousands of Ethiopian Jews threaten mass hunger strike over funding
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Thousands of Ethiopian Jews threaten mass hunger strike over funding

Representatives for the community protest Israel's proposed elimination of funding to allow them to be reunited with their families in Israel

Israeli Ethiopians protest against racism in Jerusalem in 2012. Many who are still in Ethiopia want to be reunited with their families
Israeli Ethiopians protest against racism in Jerusalem in 2012. Many who are still in Ethiopia want to be reunited with their families

Representatives for thousands of Ethiopian Jews have said they will stage a mass hunger strike if Israel eliminates funding to allow them to join their families in that country.

Hundreds have gathered at a synagogue in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa to express concern that Israel’s proposed budget removes the funding to help them reunite with relatives.

Most of the nearly 8,000 Ethiopian Jews in the East African nation are said to have family members already in Israel. Some claim they have been separated for more than a decade.

Activists say Israel’s government in 2015 pledged to bring the remaining Ethiopian Jews to Israel.

Ethiopians are currently prohibited from holding protests under the country’s latest state of emergency, imposed after the most severe anti-government demonstrations in a quarter-century.

Activists say Israel’s government in 2015 pledged to bring the remaining Ethiopian Jews to Israel.

In 1991, with Ethiopia in civil war, Israel carried out Operation Solomon, successfully airlifting out some 14,500 Ethiopian Jews in less than two days.

Meles Sidisto, the community head of Ethiopian Jews in Addis Ababa, said: “All of us here in Ethiopia are in a foreign land and suffering from acute poverty and hunger.

“Most of our family members are in Israel. Several of our brothers and sisters who took dangerous routes to meet their relatives in Israel have died during their journey.”

He said Addis Ababa’s community of Ethiopian Jews, which numbers around 800 households, will hold a hunger strike if the Israeli government does not hear their plea.

“We have had enough here. What have we done wrong to suffer this much?” he said.

Wednesday’s gathering was described as a solidarity event. Ethiopians are currently prohibited from holding protests under the country’s latest state of emergency, imposed this month after the most severe anti-government demonstrations in a quarter-century.

Most Ethiopian Jews live in northern Ethiopia’s Amhara region, one of the areas that has experienced the sometimes deadly anti-government protests that began in November 2015 with demands for greater freedoms.

In a letter addressed to Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Ethiopian Jews in Addis Ababa said they want to immediately and without any preconditions go to Israel and join family members.

It reads: “We will never lose hope in going to Israel because we are winner people. Dear Mr Prime Minister, we want you to make our wish a reality. We ask you this in the name of Our God, Israel’s God.”

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