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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Ethiopia police injure 80 Jews during protest near Israel Embassy

Chairman of Beta Israel Association says 2,000 Ethiopian Jews gather to demand entry into Israel, Israeli citizenship.

A Jewish group says that Ethiopian police injured 80 Ethiopian Jewish protesters and arrested 80 more during a demonstration near the Israeli Embassy in Addis Ababa.

Hamse Sutotow, chairman of the Beta Israel Association, said 2,000 Ethiopian Jews gathered Wednesday at the Israeli Embassy. The protesters were demanding the right to Israeli citizenship

Sutotow said he believes the police action was ordered directly or indirectly by the Israeli Embassy.

Ethiopian Jews in the past have mounted hunger strikes in the pursuit of being granted citizenship.

The members of a 2,000-strong community in Addis Ababa claim Jewish lineage, but their very origins are doubted by authorities in Israel who believe they are imposters seeking entry under the guise of religion.

Over 100,000 Ethiopian Jews already live in Israel and Jerusalem recently granted entry to 7,800 more from only the northern town of Gonder, where all Ethiopian Jews -- known as the Falash Mura -- originate from.

Those in the Ethiopian capital told Reuters earlier this year they were unfairly left out, dashing their hopes of reuniting with family members.

"All we want is to reunite with our families. Both my father and mother are in Israel along with my two sisters," said Fikirte Delele, a 33-year-old mother of two.

The group says its members moved from Gonder in the mid-1990s hoping to fast-track their aliyah after Israel resettled thousands of Ethiopian Jews in the 1980s.

But the dream of quick resettlement soon turned faded, and the new arrivals -- mostly poor farmers and manual laborers -- soon found themselves struggling to survive in Addis Ababa having sold all their meager belongings in rural Ethiopia.

Israeli officials had confirmed at the time that Jews in Addis Ababa will not be part of the 7,800.

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