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Field Report: Update on Recent Developments in Ukraine

The situation in Ukraine continues to be tense: All of our shlichim (emissaries) in Ukraine are reporting a growing number of Aliyah applications from potential new immigrants who seek advice and information about opportunities in Israel and about the services that The Jewish Agency provides. The Jewish Agency's Emergency Assistance Fund has transferred, in the past weeks, nearly $350,000 to more than 100 organizations and Jewish communities in 35 Ukrainian towns and cities. Several anti-Semitic incidents reported, but Jewish Agency programming going on as usual.

Prepared on Thursday, March 20, 2014 by the Unit for Russian-Speaking Jewry

Aliyah from Ukraine: Rate Increase

All of our shlichim (emissaries) in Ukraine are reporting a growing number of Aliyah applications from potential new immigrants who seek advice and information about their opportunities in Israel and about the services that The Jewish Agency provides. There has also been growth in the number of people asking to have their Aliyah eligibility examined.

Dozens of applicants have contacted our representatives in Simferopol (in Crimea); about 120 are first-time callers.

As we mentioned in our previous update, the number of those registered for Aliyah flights with The Jewish Agency is growing, mostly in the regions of Odessa, Dnepropetrovsk, Kharkov, and Simferopol. The number over the last few weeks is three times larger than it was in the same period in the previous year.

Currently there are still no flights leaving from Simferopol to Kiev, which makes it difficult to fly out the new olim from Crimea. In order to resolve this problem, we are looking for alternative routes, which will demand extra expenses.

We received a nice testimonial from Alexander Spinov, 26, from Odessa, who is about to make Aliyah. Alexander first visited Israel with Taglit-Birthright. His second visit to Israel, after he graduated from university, “irrevocably affected my life position and principles," he wrote. "I just thought to myself that I want to live in Israel with my family . . . . When I contacted The Jewish Agency I received all the assistance possible to get ready for Aliyah. Many thanks to The Jewish Agency staff in Odessa."

Security Support from The Jewish Agency

The Jewish Agency's Emergency Assistance Fund has transferred, in the past weeks, nearly $350,000 to more than 100 organizations and Jewish communities in 35 Ukrainian towns and cities.

Political Situation Regarding Crimea

The situation in Ukraine continues to be tense. Unrest and riots took place this week in several cities of southern and eastern Ukraine, including Kharkov, Donetsk, and Odessa. 

The most significant events took place in the Crimean peninsula.

On Sunday, March 16, Crimeans held a referendum on independence and joining the Russian Federation, and approved both with votes of approval approaching 97 percent. The next day, Crimea's Parliament declared the Republic of Crimea to be an independent, sovereign country, with the city of Sevastopol having a special status, and formally applied for membership in the Russian Federation. Also on Monday, Russian President Vladamir Putin signed an order recognizing Crimea's independence and sovereignty.

On Tuesday, March 18, President Putin spoke before the Russian parliament and asked for special legislation, according to the constitutional law of the Russian Federation, allowing Crimea's accession into the Federation.

On Wednesday, the Constitutional Court of Russia endorsed the accession. President Putin asked the parliament to ratify Crimea's membership in the Russian Federation, and to amend the Constitution with additions creating two new Federation members: The Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol.

The United States and the European Union declared the Crimean referendum illegal and imposed sanctions against some Russian officials.

Anti-Semitism in Ukraine

We have received several reports of recent anti-Semitic incidents, including:

·         Several days ago, Hillel Cohen, Chairman of the “Rescue” organization and Deputy Chairman of “ZAKA” in Kiev, was attacked on his way to a hospital to visit a patient. Mr. Cohen was knocked down and stabbed in the leg. The attackers called him “Kike” and disappeared. He was treated by a “ZAKA” team and taken to the hospital. His condition was described as mild to moderate.

·         Anti-Semitic flyers were distributed in the town of Kherson, in southern Ukraine. The Jewish community asked the police to open a criminal file.

JEWISH AGENCY’S ACTIVITIES CONTINUE IN UKRAINE

All Jewish Agency offices in Ukraine remain open and activities continue.

Hebrew ulpan classes, the Limudiyah course to prepare teens to take the Na'aleh entrance exams, Sunday school, the Bar/Bat Mitzvah project, and the Art Midrasha are all active in Kiev. Also in Kiev, we held a weekend seminar to prepare Na'aleh candidates and their parents. Na'aleh provides three years of study in Israeli high schools, along with room, board, and amenities; most participants are from the FSU.  The seminar was organized in cooperation with Nativ (Prime Minister's Office) and the Na'aleh administration. Entrance exams for Na'aleh are to begin today at Jewish Agency offices in Kiev, Dnepropetrovsk, Kharkov, and Odessa. Nearly 300 teens have registered for the exams, and two Na'aleh professional teams arrived in Ukraine this week to conduct the tests.

Also this weekend, we held two informational seminars for Selah candidates: a weekend seminar near Kiev and a one-day program in Kharkov. Selah is a 10-month academic preparatory course and Aliyah program for recent high school graduates from the FSU who immigrate to Israel prior to their parents or on their own.  Registration for Selah in Ukraine is in full swing: over 110 potential participants have submitted their applications, and the number continues to grow.  We will start the interview process at the end of the month.

Day camps will begin in Kiev and Cherkassy at the end of March.

In Dnepropetrovsk our staff held an Open House, which drew many Jews interested in Jewish Agency programs.

The Jewish Agency's Russian-Speaking Jewry Unit organized meetings this week in Kiev and Lvov between the mayor of the Israeli town of Yokne'am and groups of potential olim. Additionally, the deputy mayor of Hadera is in Ukraine this week to meet Jews in Kharkov, Donetsk, and Dnepropetrovsk. The meetings with the municipal representatives provide an opportunity for potential olim to develop a personal connection with specific towns, and to learn about those towns' absorption programs.

Our Unit's leadership in Jerusalem conducts daily phone conferences with the shlichim in Ukraine. We are also in daily contact with various relevant Israeli governmental agencies including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Prime Minister's Office, and the Ministry of Absorption, in order to coordinate our actions.

The Jewish Agency's Russian-Speaking Jewry Unit will continue to monitor developments closely and keep you updated.

21 Mar 2014 / 19 Adar II 5774 0
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Avital Chizhik is the Digital Content Editor of The Jewish Agency for Israel. Avital grew up in Highland Park, New Jersey, the daughter of Russian immigrants who came to New York in 1980. She is a graduate of Yeshiva University; her essays have appeared in the New York Times, the Forward, and Tablet, and she is a frequent essay contributor to Haaretz. She currently lives in New York.