Save Ethiopia’s 10,000 Jews, MP Lewis urges community

GOAL: MP Ivan is seen with members of the Ethiopian Maccabi youth football team. Pictures and videos from Mr Lewis’ trip are available on the JT’s Facebook page

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MP IVAN Lewis is calling on British Jews to support the last 10,000 Jews in Ethiopia.

He made the plea to the Jewish Telegraph while on a visit to the African country’s cities of Addis Ababa and Gondar this week.

The Bury South MP said: “It is moving and shocking to see for myself the plight of the remaining 10,000 Ethiopian Jews here.

“It is a moral and humanitarian crisis for world Jewry. Remaining silent is not an option.

“Fellow Jews are living out here in extreme poverty, among some of the worst conditions anywhere in the world.

“Half the children suffer malnutrition and survive merely on grains, pancakes and lentils — it’s all they eat, day after day.”

Earlier this year, Israel’s Knesset agreed to take in 1,000 a year of the Ethiopian Jews still waiting in Addis Ababa and Gondar.

This went against a 2015 cabinet resolution calling for Israel to accept all the remaining Ethiopian Jews.

Mr Lewis continued: “This is not enough. They need more humanitarian support.

“These people are constantly thinking that they are going to Israel, which stops them developing their lives here.

“This has had a deep-rooted psychological impact as everything they have in Ethiopia is temporary.

“Their only motivation is to go to Israel.”

Mr Lewis said that if a family was “lucky”, they would have a hole for a toilet.

“Many families can not afford to send their children to school,” he said. “When they do go to school, there are 70 children in each class.

“A typical living condition could see eight members of one family living in one room built mainly out of straw and mud.

“A house, although it was more of a compound, has six rooms with one family in each.

“It’s tragic to hear of many situations where children are separated from parents or some children were allowed to leave for Israel, but the parents couldn’t go and vice-versa.

“There is a real traumatic impact of that kind of separation.”

During his visit to the area, he joined with charity Meketa to help support the plight of the people.

The charity was set up by Manchester-born Hila Bram, alongside Rabbi Sybil Sheridan, in 2013.

Ms Bram said: “We first came to Gondar in 2009 to volunteer at the Jewish school, teaching the teachers Hebrew, Judaism and other Jewish topics.

“While working in the school, we became aware of the great educational and economic needs of the Jewish community.

“The situation of the Jews in these areas is precarious, as most of the adults moved there from rural areas in the hope of emigrating to Israel, and did not have suitable skills to find work in the town.”

The charity raises money to cover the cost of locals opening a business — be it a fruit and vegetable stall, cafe or a weaving factory. Typically, it can be around £120 per year.

Mr Lewis said there is a Maccabi in the area, which is looking to set up an under-13 football team.

He added: “I am asking for communities in the JT’s readership areas to support this.

“They need kits, boots, etc. We have enough teams around, so surely someone could donate a kit.

“There is a youth club here — why can’t Bnei Akiva in Manchester or elsewhere help the youth in Gondar and Addis Ababa?

“The latter has 800 families made up of 3,000 people, while Gondar has 7,000 people from 1,300 families.

“The Israeli chief rabbinate — both Ashkenazi and Sephardi — has ruled that these communities are halachically and authentically Jewish.

“That should be respected,” said Mr Lewis.

On his return to the UK, he will be meeting Mark Regev, Israel’s ambassador to the UK.

He said: “I need to tell him, face to face, the realities on the ground. It’s not all about numbers — it’s about human beings and fellow Jews.”

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