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Breaking a Promise
These are difficult times for Israel's government. This summer's war with Hezbollah created enormous hardship for the Israeli people. Adjusting for the tremendous financial shortfalls these extraordinary circumstances have created is not easy. And even if the Diaspora steps up and gives all it can to support Israel's people, budget cuts from the top down are still going to be necessary.
But one proposed cut cannot be tolerated. Israel's Finance Ministry has suggested decreasing funds allocated for the in-gathering of the last remnant of Jewish life in Ethiopia -- the Falash Mura.
Last year, Israel and Diaspora Jewry jointly agreed to step up the pace of aliyah of this group -- descendants of Jews forced to convert to Christianity who wish to return to both Judaism and Israel -- to resolve the problem once and for all. In order to pay for this, Jews abroad and the State of Israel agreed to jointly fund the large cost incurred by this project. But now that the war in Lebanon understandably diverted Jewish fundraising abroad to the more urgent emergency, Israel appears to be following suit.
Ingathering of the exiles is a basic principle of Zionism. Those in Ethiopia who wish to make aliyah must be allowed to do so swiftly. And if this means that American Jewry must do even more to raise money for this cause -- as well as for the Israel Emergency Fund to help postwar needs -- then that is what we must do.
Similarly, Israel's government must find a way to pay for this project. The promise made to the Falash Mura, like those made to Israelis affected by Hezbollah terrorism, cannot be annulled.