A New Exodus from Ethiopia

The city of Gondar in Ethiopia is home to only one synagogue, used by the Falash Mura community. As Cnaan Lipshiz explains, its members identify as the descendants of Ethiopian Jews who converted to Christianity around 200 years ago, sometimes under duress. In recent weeks, two flights brought a total of 300 members of the Falash Mura to settle in Israel, in an operation organized by the Jewish Agency for Israel and funded by a wide range of Jewish organizations.

Over the past 40 years, Israel has haltingly allowed thousands of Falash Mura to immigrate, with the aim of reuniting families of Ethiopian Jews in Israel and ultimately leaving none behind in Ethiopia, a poor African nation where the average life expectancy is 67 years. [Last week’s] flight is one of the first since Israel re-opened immigration for a small number of Falash Mura last year.

Kefale Tayachew Damtie, a father of six from Gondar, [and one of the expectant immigrants], has not seen his mother in years but has not told her that he’s coming. “I’ll do it right before I board the plane to Israel. I don’t want to disappoint her,” said Damtie, fifty-six, who lives with his wife and children in a rented 300-square-feet room with no running water.

“I have been waiting to leave because this is not my home. These are not my people. I am Jewish and Zion is my country,” said Damtie. [He] and his whole family wore their best clothes as they loaded their only possessions—a serving dish and some clothing—onto a pickup truck bound for Gondar airport, en route to Addis Ababa ahead of the final flight to Israel.

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Read more at JTA

More about: Aliyah, Ethiopian Jews, Falash Mura

Will Costco Go to Israel?

Social-media users have mocked this week new Israeli finance minister Bezalel Smotrich for a poorly translated letter. But far more interesting than the finance minister’s use of Google Translate (or some such technology) is what the letter reveals about the Jewish state. In it, Smotrich asks none other than Costco to consider opening stores in Israel.

Why?

Israel, reports Sharon Wrobel, has one of the highest costs of living of any country in the 38-member Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

This

has been generally attributed to a lack of competition among local importers and manufacturers. The top three local supermarket chains account for over half of the food retail market, limiting competition and putting upward pressure on prices. Meanwhile, import tariffs, value-added tax costs and kosher restrictions have been keeping out international retail chains.

Is the move likely to happen?

“We do see a recent trend of international retailers entering the Israeli market as some barriers to food imports from abroad have been eased,” Chen Herzog, chief economist at BDO Israel accounting firm, told The Times of Israel. “The purchasing power and technology used by big global retailers for logistics and in the area of online sales where Israel has been lagging behind could lead to a potential shift in the market and more competitive prices.”

Still, the same economist noted that in Israel “the cost of real estate and other costs such as the VAT on fruit and vegetables means that big retailers such as Costco may not be able to offer the same competitive prices than in other places.”

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Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Costco, Israel & Zionism