The government Cabinet decided on Sunday to speed up the immigration of Ethiopia’s Jews. The government’s aim is to have all remaining members of the country’s Jewish community arrive in Israel by March 2014.
Tens of thousands of Ethiopian Jews were brought to Israel in clandestine operations starting more than three decades ago.
Thousands of descendants of Ethiopian Jews who were forced to convert to Christianity in the 19th century, known as the Falash Mura, were left behind.
The Jewish Agency, with backing from the Israeli government and American Jewry, has been working to bring the remnants of the community, believed to number roughly 2,200, to Israel.
Ethiopian Jews trace their ancestors to the ancient Israelite tribe of Dan. The community was cut off from the rest of the Jewish world for more than 1,000 years.
About 120,000 Ethiopian Jews live in Israel today, a small minority in a country of 7 million. Their absorption has been problematic; suffering from a lack of modern education, many have fallen into unemployment and poverty and have watched their family structures disintegrate.