In Ethiopia, squalor and shrinking hope for remnants of a lost tribe of Israel

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GONDAR, Ethiopia -- Thousands of Ethiopians who say their Jewish roots entitle them to live in Israel are stuck in a squalid camp in Ethiopia, their dream of a promised land fading as Israel scrutinizes their family ties.

Known as "Falashas Mura", the descendants of Ethiopian Jews have reverted to Judaism since their late 18th and 19th century forbears converted to Christianity, sometimes under duress.

Tens of thousands of practicing Ethiopian Jews or Falashas -- which means "outsiders" in Ethiopia's Amharic language -- were airlifted to Israel in dramatic, top-secret operations in the 1980s and 1990s after a rabbinical ruling that they were direct descendants of the biblical Jewish Dan tribe.

By 1998, Israel said it had brought all of Ethiopia's Jews home to the Jewish state but another rabbinical ruling that year complicated matters by also recognizing as Jews those Falashas Mura -- converted outsiders -- who revert to Judaism.

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