Israel’s government on Sunday approved the immigration of several thousand Jews from Ethiopia, some of whom have waited for decades to join their relatives in Israel.
A statement from Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s office said the cabinet unanimously agreed to allow 3,000 Ethiopians who have first-degree relatives in Israel to enter the country “immediately”.
Some 140,000 Ethiopian Jews live in Israel. Community leaders estimate that roughly 6,000 others remain behind in Ethiopia.
Although the families are of Jewish descent and many are practicing Jews, Israel does not consider them Jewish under religious law. Instead, they have been fighting to enter the country under a family-unification program that requires special government approval.
The move comes as a year of fighting in Ethiopia between Tigray rebels and government forces has left hundreds of thousands in famine-like conditions.
Earlier this month, hundreds demonstrated in Jerusalem to demand action from the government, with protesters chanting “rescue them”.
The Ethiopians who have been approved for immigration are members of the Falash Mura, descendants of Ethiopian Jews who converted to Christianity many under duress in the 18th and 19th centuries.
In a joint statement with Israel’s interior minister, she said the decision came in part as a response to the precarious security situation in Ethiopia, where tens of thousands of people have been killed over the past year in fighting between the government and Tigray forces.