Gov't. to Vote on Remaining Ethiopian Jews

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JERUSALEM, Israel - The fate of 8,700 Ethiopian Jews waiting to be approved for aliyah (immigration to Israel) will be decided by the Knesset within the next three months, Army Radio reported.

Interior Minister Eli Yishai (Shas) has proposed a timetable to bring the remaining Ethiopian Jews, called Falash Mura, to Israel. Most of them have been living in an absorption camp in Gondar since 2008.

In the previous government led by former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, then Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit (Kadima) announced the end of the Ethiopian aliyah.

"Don't go finding me any lost tribes because I won't let them in any more," Sheetrit told the Jewish Agency Board of Governors at a meeting in Jerusalem. "We have enough problems in Israel. Let them go to America," Sheetrit said.

His remarks drew criticism from Jewish communities worldwide.

Many Falash Mura are descendants of families that converted to Christianity in the 19th century, which has caused some, like Sheetrit, to question their eligibility for aliyah.

Meanwhile, the last charter flight of the year, sponsored by Nefesh b' Nefesh (soul to soul), bringing 210 new North American immigrants, is scheduled to touch down Wednesday morning at Ben Gurion International Airport.

Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom, Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky, Nefesh b'Nefesh co-founders Tony Gelbart and Rabbi Yehoshua Fass and other senior officials will be on hand to welcome the new Israelis home.

More than 3,800 North American Jews immigrated to Israel in 2009.

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