No, This is NOT About Netanyahu and Elections

Something happened in the 24 hours prior to the Knesset dissolving itself, having been convened exactly one month ago. I am not talking about Netanyahu’s failure to form a government, a sign that “the Magician” is losing his luster. Nor am I talking about Lieberman’s inexplicable intransigence over the Draft law, which forced Netanyahu to hurriedly pass a law in three readings to dissolve the Knesset, for fear of the mandate being given back to the President, to allow someone else to form a government and perhaps succeed where he failed. I am also not even talking about how all 34 members of the Likud Party are spineless jellyfish to Netanyahu’s manipulations, even voting to incorporate Kahlon into their party, with barely a murmur of independent thought and protest.

It is about something small but significant, actually of life and death, that fluttered by and was forgotten in the deluge of drama and defamation that accompanied the calling of new elections. In one of the most inconceivable, unscrupulous, and morally unacceptable acts, that even I thought Netanyahu was incapable of committing, he approached MK Pnina Tamano Shata, of Ethiopian descent and of the Blue-White party, with an offer to defect and join his coalition, in return for the Absorption Ministry, and expediting the Aliya of the 8000 members of the Falash Mura community, who have been languishing in transit camps in Ethiopia, for over twenty years. He knows full well, that Tamano-Shata has members of her family in those camps. Placing such a moral dilemma before her, is cruel and unconscionable. Some of us are still reeling from the shock that Netanyahu stooped so low as to trade in the remains of one of our fallen soldiers, Zecharia Baumel z”l for political gain, keeping under wraps the fact that his remains were lying in the Abu Kabir Mortuary for an entire month before this knowledge was revealed to the public, five days before the election, and with a sham emotional ceremony in Moscow to pluck at the national heart-strings, all in order to emotionally extort a few more votes. Now it has been revealed that he is prepared to trade in the lives of a desperate community, so that he can form a government and ensure his political survival. Is there no limit to the depths of his moral depravity, his conscience?

Pnina Tamano-Shata, MK

No, this is not about Netanyahu. It is about the offer he made. The fact that he could even make such an offer, is an admission that Israel could be doing so much more than what it is doing to liberate these people and unite families in Israel. It reveals that not only has this issue been put on the back burner by this government, in order not to incur the ire of his Haredi coalition partners, but the gas has been turned off. One cannot help but wonder, if this community was White, in Russia or Morocco, would we have left them there for 20 years?

A Falash Mura synagogue service

From its inception, Israel placed as its priority the ingathering of exiles. We even state as much, in our Declaration of Independence “THE STATE OF ISRAEL will be open for Jewish immigration and for the Ingathering of the Exiles”. These desperate people in Ethiopia, forced to convert to Christianity on pain of death, are exiles, twice over. Not only are they exiles from their homes in Ethiopia, rejected by the country they were born in, and kept in camps and in jeopardy of persecution. They are also Exiles of the Jewish people, destitute and deserving of a better life.

Israel’s population today, is 8.7 million people. The Falash Mura are a mere 8000. Irrespective of whether there is halachic certainty of their Jewishness the impact they would make on the Jewish character of our state is miniscule, if at all. As Netanyahu, in his desperation to form a government has inadvertently revealed during this political drama, it is within our power to end their suffering. We have the ability to end the uncertainty of their lives in limbo. Imagine waking every day with a prayer, a hope that maybe today you will be allowed to come to Israel. Now, imagine the agony, how every day when that hope is extinguished, and how it stifles your soul.

Falash Mura in a queue in a transit camp

In one week, we will be celebrating Shavuot, where we remember how our forefathers wandered in the wilderness for forty years. The Falash Mura are in the wilderness, today. It is also the festival where we celebrate our receiving the Torah, the source of the dictates of our society, the Ten Commandments and the 613 laws by which we live. Irrespective of their Jewish provenance, our Jewish values, inspired by the Torah, should dictate our conscience and we should end their suffering, now.

About the Author
Paul Mirbach made aliya from South Africa to kibbutz Tuval in 1982 with a garin of Habonim members. Together they built a new kibbutz transforming rocks and mud to a green oasis in the Gallilee. He served in infantry during his army service, serving in both Lebanon and the West Bank, including on reserve duty during the first intifada. Paul still lives on Tuval with his wife and two sons.