REPRESENTATIVES for a large population of Ethiopian Jews have said they will stage a mass hunger strike if Israel eliminates funding to allow them to join their families in that country.

Hundreds have gathered at a synagogue in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa to express concern that Israel’s proposed budget removes the funding to help them reunite with relatives.

Most of the nearly 8000 Ethiopian Jews in the East African nation are said to have family members already in Israel. Some claim they have been separated for more than a decade.

Activists say Israel’s government in 2015 pledged to bring the remaining Ethiopian Jews to Israel.

Ethiopians are currently prohibited from holding protests under the country’s latest state of emergency, imposed after the most severe anti-government demonstrations in a quarter-century.

Meles Sidisto, the community head of Ethiopian Jews in Addis Ababa, said: “All of us here in Ethiopia are in a foreign land and suffering from acute poverty and hunger.

“Most of our family members are in Israel. Several of our brothers and sisters who took dangerous routes to meet their relatives in Israel have died during their journey.”

He said Addis Ababa’s community of Ethiopian Jews will hold a hunger strike if the Israeli government does not respond.