Israel and the Jewish world are closely watching the unfolding events.
By Pesach Benson, United With Israel
The Russian military invaded Ukraine on three fronts on Thursday. Breaking its neutrality, Israel joined the West in condemning the attack.
Ukrainian authorities have so far reported the deaths of 40 soldiers and 10 civilians. Russia claims it destroyed 74 Ukrainian military facilities. There have been no signs of Western military intervention.
Four ballistic missiles were fired at Ukraine from Belarus, and Russian forces have entered the Chernobyl nuclear disaster zone. Other Russian forces were said to be advancing on Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital.
Israel and the Jewish world are closely watching the unfolding events. There is concern are for the fate of thousands of Ukrainian Jews and Israeli nationals still in Ukraine, as well as the war’s unfolding strategic implications.
Here’s a quick hit look at the Jewish things you need to know about the war and its fallout.
• Israel’s Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai confirmed that Israel is preparing an aid package for Ukrainian Jews. Shai’s statement did not elaborate on what Israel intends to send or how the aid will reach Ukrainian Jews.
• Russia’s Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar is urging Jews across the world to dedicate this Shabbat to prayers for peace and calm.
• Since Thursday morning, the Jewish Agency has been “flooded” with phone calls from Jews who want to flee to Israel. “In most cases, these are individuals who have completed their aliyah applications but have yet to receive their immigration visas,” Haaretz reported.
The paper also noted that numerous IDF soldiers with relatives in Ukraine have contacted the Jewish Agency’s office in Jerusalem, trying to arrange evacuations.
• Russia’s UN envoy Dmitry Polyanskiy condemned Israel’s capture and annexation of the Golan during the Six-Day War and said Moscow doesn’t recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Heights. Polyanski’s comments were made at the UN hours before Russia launched its invasion.
The Russian mission tweeted late last night, “#Polyanskiy: We’re concerned over Tel Aviv’s announced plans for expanding settlement activity in the occupied #GolanHeights, which contradicts the provisions of the 1949 Geneva Convention. Russia doesn’t recognize Israel’s sovereignty over Golan Heights that are part of #Syria.”
#Polyanskiy: We’re concerned over Tel Aviv’s announced plans for expanding settlement activity in the occupied #GolanHeights, which contradicts the provisions of the 1949 Geneva Convention. Russia doesn’t recognize Israel’s sovereignty over Golan Heights that are part of #Syria. pic.twitter.com/slHQSefJp5
— Russian Mission UN (@RussiaUN) February 23, 2022
• 160 rabbis of Ukrainian Jewish communities were due to hold an emergency meeting on Thursday to discuss the possibility of sending women and children from eastern Ukrainian Jewish communities to safety in the country’s west.
But that option may not be viable for many people. Kharkiv Chief Rabbi Moshe Moskovitz told Israel Hayom that the city is reportedly surrounded by Russian tanks and that a shortage of gas makes it unlikely that Jews will be able to flee to western Ukraine. Kharkiv, a city of 1.5 million, is near Ukraine’s eastern border with Russia.
• The Israeli shekel weakened against the value of the dollar, with the shekel-to-dollar exchange rate rising 1.19% higher than yesterday’s rate. “The official invasion of Ukraine by Russia has brought in train a rush to the dollar as a safe haven,” Prico Risk Management CEO Yossi Fraiman told Globes. The exchange rate now stands at 3.2613 shekels to one dollar.
• Israel broke its neutrality as Foreign Minister Yair Lapid condemned Russia’s invasion, calling it a “serious violation of the international order.” He added that Israel is “is ready and prepared to offer humanitarian assistance to Ukrainian citizens.”
• A list of 17 Ukrainians listed as “Righteous Gentiles” was given to Israel’s Foreign Ministry. People who risked their lives to save Jews have been documented by Yad Vashem. The title confers honorary Israeli citizenship and the right to immigrate, despite not being Jewish.
• Kyiv closed the Ukrainian airspace, so any Israelis seeking to leave will have to do so by land. Israeli Ambassador to Ukraine Michael Brodsky called on Israelis to evacuate through Poland.
The Foreign Ministry tweeted that it has sent officials to the Medyka crossing with Poland, the Vysne Nemescke crossing with Slovakia, the Zahony crossing with Hungary, the Sighet crossing with Romania and the Planca crossing with Moldova to assist Israeli evacuees.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry set up the following emergency phone lines for Ukraine related queries: +972 (0)2-530 3911, +972 (0)2-530 3401, +972 (0)2-530 3287.
• According to Hebrew media reports, Israel relayed to Russia the exact air coordinates of its embassies in Kyiv and Lviv to prevent its diplomatic staff from coming under fire.
• In Uman, where the grave of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov is located, Hassidic pilgrims “woke up under fire” on Thursday morning, Hatzalah Jewish rescue services told the Jerusalem Post.
“We prepared buses in advance, but there is chaos at the moment and no driver is willing to drive to the borders,” Hatzalah’s spokesman Shlomi Elisha said.