Israelis in Nahariya rally in solidarity with Ukraine, Feb 26, 2022. (Sara Yahimovich/TPS) (Sara Yahimovich/TPS)
Nahariya

“We expect that thousands of people will immigrate to Israel from Ukraine.”

By Aryeh Savir, TPS

Ukrainian Jews “should consider [Israel] a national home, mainly in times of crisis,” and Israel “should be prepared to absorb them in the best possible manner,” Member of Knesset Alex Kushnir stated during Monday’s meeting of the Finance Committee on immigration to Israel from Ukraine.

Kushnir was born in Drohobych, Ukraine, and immigrated to Israel in 1992.

Speaking in Russian, Kushnir addressed the Jews in Ukraine and said that Israel,“we will do everything so that Israel will become your home, also in times of peace, but particularly in times of crisis. We will develop a strategic plan to absorb Olim (new immigrants to Israel) from Ukraine. Our home is your home.”

Yulia Dor, Deputy Director-General of Nativ, a government organization that operates among Jews and their families throughout the FSU countries to tighten their ties with Israel, noted during the meeting that in Ukraine there are currently some 200,000 people who are eligible to make Aliyah to Israel under the Law of Return. About 50,000 of them are Jews according to Jewish law.

She explained that there are now three groups in the country – Jews who chose not to evacuate; those who move westward, to the borders with Poland, Hungary and Slovenia; and the third group is the population of refugees.

“Within all three of these groups, there are people who want to make Aliyah to Israel. This includes people who are in the battle zones, those who are making their way westward, and those who have crossed the borders over the past few days and are now in neighboring countries. This makes our job very complicated,” Dor said.

She pointed out that entry into the battle zones of Israeli personnel is not possible, “also because the skies have been closed. The level of personal security at the border crossings is very low, and we anticipate an imminent humanitarian disaster at the borders.”

“If up until two days we knew that every Jew [who is eligible to make Aliyah] can cross the border, yesterday a presidential decree was issued that prohibits men between the ages of 18-60 from [leaving the country]. This includes people who already have a permit to make Aliyah,” she added.

21st-Century Jewish Solidarity

Shay Felber, Director of the Jewish Agency’s Aliyah and Absorption Unit, said that “before the war broke out, the Jewish Agency’s global service center would receive about 120 calls a day from Ukraine, and that number has jumped to more than 1,000 calls a day.”

“We’ve opened a hotline that has fielded thousands of calls,” he added. “As of yesterday, of the 5,000 people who called over a four-day period, 2,500 said they want to make Aliyah. This number is expected to increase in the coming days.”

“We expect that thousands of people will immigrate to Israel from Ukraine, either independently or in an organized fashion, and we have to prepare for this: rent facilities in countries neighboring Ukraine and prepare to set up transit camps for thousands of Jews. Together with Nativ, we will work to fly them to Israel,” Felber said.

Minister of Diaspora Nachman Shai stated Monday that his office has allocated NIS 10 million in dedicated humanitarian aid to the Jewish communities in Ukraine.

He emphasized “the moral commitment of the Israeli government to assist at this time, which will contribute to strengthening the sense of peoplehood and mutual guarantee in Israeli society.”

“In my eyes, the term Jewish solidarity that we are talking about so much … today it is being reworked and redefined for the twenty-first century,” he stated.

​“These ties are being renewed between Israel and the Diaspora, and within the Diasporas themselves, and distant communities that are now raising financial resources to help Ukraine and to help the Jewish community there, it is a convincing proof that we are truly one nation, a Jewish people, scattered but connects in difficult moments, like this moment, and knows how to act together,” he said.