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Those waiting in Gondar, Addis in 'immediate, mortal danger'

After 1st conflict fatality, activists beg PM to airlift all Ethiopian Jews now

Knesset Aliyah Committee to grill officials Wednesday against backdrop of escalating fighting in northwest Ethiopia, in which Gondar Jew was killed last week

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter.

Illustrative: Israeli women from the Ethiopian Jewish community pray during the Sigd holiday marking the desire to 'return to Jerusalem,' as they celebrate from a hilltop in the holy city overlooking the Temple Mount, on November 16, 2017. (AFP Photo/Gali Tibbon/File)
Illustrative: Israeli women from the Ethiopian Jewish community pray during the Sigd holiday marking the desire to 'return to Jerusalem,' as they celebrate from a hilltop in the holy city overlooking the Temple Mount, on November 16, 2017. (AFP Photo/Gali Tibbon/File)

A group that campaigns to bring the Jews remaining in Ethiopia to Israel warned on Monday that those waiting in Gondar and Addis Ababa are in “immediate, real and mortal danger” and should be airlifted immediately.

Fighting between Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front from the country’s northwest claimed its first victim from Gondar’s Jewish community on November 12 — Girmew Gete, 36.

He was killed in the border area between Tigray and Amhara, which is disputed by the two neighboring regions.

He had been waiting with his family to immigrate to Israel for 24 years and is survived by his partner and their four-year-old daughter.

An undated photo of Germew Gete in army uniform. (Courtesy)

Up to 14,000 people with Jewish roots are waiting to come to Israel, the vast majority having left their villages years ago to eke out livings near the Jewish community centers in Gondar City and Addis Ababa.

The coronavirus pandemic has seen donations and support from families in Israel drying up, and poverty and malnutrition are rife.

On Friday night, the TPLF launched rockets at two airports in Amhara, one of them serving Gondar City, where most of those waiting are based.

In its letter to the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Israel Katz, the Campaign for the Aliyah of Ethiopian Jews warned not only about the deteriorating security situation but about fears that in times of instability, the Jews might be exposed to anti-Semitic attacks.

It referred to two Israeli government decisions — one made in November 2015, but only partially implemented, to bring some 8,000 individuals to Israel within five years, and a second one made in September to bring 2,000, on the basis of “available funds.”

Israeli ‘Kessim’ or religious leaders of the Ethiopian Jewish community lead the prayers during the Sigd holiday marking the desire to ‘return to Jerusalem’, as they celebrate from a hilltop in the holy city over looking the Temple Mount, on November 16, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / GALI TIBBON)

“In view of this, and in the spirit of [Monday’s Ethiopian festival] the Sigd, which orders us to search our souls in the hope of redemption and return to Zion, we call on you to act urgently to implement government decisions 716 and 429 to bring the whole population waiting to come to the Land of Israel,” it said.

“On this Sigd holiday, thousands of Israeli citizens with family in Ethiopia are looking to you in the hope that you can save the lives of their loved ones.”

On Wednesday, the Knesset’s Aliyah Committee will convene to question officials from ministries and various organizations about the situation.

Representatives of the Interior Ministry and the Jewish Agency are already on the ground in Ethiopia, selecting and preparing to airlift 2,000 people to Israel in January.

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