Ukrainian Jews Fleeing Fighting Head for Israel

More than 150 Jews housed in temporary shelters while waiting to emigrate

By Stephanie Butnick|August 8, 2014 10:58 AM


Ukrainian Jews fleeing war-torn towns like Donetsk [1], where fighting [2] between government troops and pro-Russian separatists continues, are hoping that Israeli will be their final destination. JTA reports [3] that more than 150 Ukrainian Jews are expected to arrive in Israel next month.

Those waiting to emigrate to Israel are currently being housed in temporary shelters at a Chabad summer camp in the western Ukrainian city of Zhytomyr while paperwork is being secured for their move to Israel. The mass aliyah has been arranged by the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, whose director, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, says nearly 40 refugees have been arriving at the converted camp weekly.

In recent weeks, interest in immigrating to Israel, or making aliyah, has risen among the Jews who left war-torn cities like Lugansk and Donetsk, according to Eckstein. He expects the number of people heading to Israel next month with his organization’s help to significantly surpass 150.

“Many people are waiting this thing out,” Eckstein said of the fighting that is going on between government forces and pro-Russian separatists. “But increasingly there is a growing realization that the fighting will continue for a long time. This is producing an increase in people’s interest to make aliyah and I believe there will be hundreds.”

Eckstein’s estimate might not be too far off. NATO officials this week warned [2] of more sanctions against Russia if the fighting continues, and the conflict ravaging Ukrainian cities doesn’t appear to be winding down.

For now, though, the Ukrainian Jews in Zhytomyr remain in an immigration limbo of sorts as they await clearance to leave for Israel.

Related: Supporting Ukraine Means Opposing Anti-Semitic Nationalism Now, Not Later [5]

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