Middle East Eye / March 7, 2022
Minister says 90 percent of Ukrainian refugees are not Jewish.
Meanwhile, a family of Ukrainians have swapped one occupied land for another, and Israel sets up a field hospital in Ukraine’s west.
Israeli officials have been encouraging tens of thousands of Ukrainian Jews to flee the Russian invasion and come to Israel – but according to Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, almost 90 percent of the Ukrainians that have arrived so far aren’t Jewish.
According to Haaretz, Shaked said on Sunday that from 2,034 Ukrainian refugees who arrived at Israel’s borders, less than 10 percent of them were Jews.
Shaked said that the figure “will reach 15,000 Ukrainians in a month”.
“Israel needs to do more in order to bring Jews and those eligible for the Law of Return. We can’t keep going at this rate, things need to be planned,” she added.
Israel’s Law of Return grants people with at least one Jewish grandparent the right to get Israeli citizenship. An estimated 200,000 Ukrainians are eligible to emigrate to Israel and would receive automatic citizenship under this law.
Israel’s Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said that the refugee crisis “is a great challenge for Israel. But it is a challenge we have faced before, time and again”.
According to regulations, Israelis who wish to host a relative fleeing the war in Ukraine have to pay a deposit of 10,000 Shekels ($3,055). The arrivals must sign a declaration they will leave the country within a month.
However, Shaked said that payment has only been received for about 20 percent of refugees.
Shaked said that there are currently 26,000 Ukrainians living in Israel who are not citizens. Some 13,000 of them are without a visa, 2,500 on tourist visas, 4,000 filed asylum-seeker applications, and the rest had working visas. Shaked said Israel was planning to host 100,000 Ukrainian Jews fleeing the war.
The Ukrainian embassy had urged Israeli officials to lift the “disgraceful” 10,000 shekel provision “and find another mechanism that would help our citizens save their children and families”.
Israel’s own Minister of Diaspora Affairs Nachman Shai said the sum was “inhumane and immoral”, and called for it to be dropped.
Refugees become settlers
A Ukrainian family that fled the Russian military occupation and invasion of their country has found sanctuary in another occupied land: the West Bank.
News site Ynet reports that the Bloritskas, who fled Kyiv, are now finding sanctuary in the illegal settlement of Revava, southwest of the Palestinian city of Nablus.
Revava is mainly an ultra-Orthodox settlement built on lands owned by Palestinian residents of Deir Istiya and Qarawat Bani Hassan villages.
The settlement sits near Road 5, a vital highway that connects Israel’s coastal areas to the heart of the West Bank. Revava falls under the authority of the Shomron Regional Council, an umbrella for settlements and illegal outposts in the north of the West Bank.
Yossi Dagan, a settler leader and head of Shomron Council, described the Bloritskas as “pioneers”.
Meira Bloritska and her five children moved to Revava on Thursday, while her husband remained in Lviv, in the west of Ukraine, to help the Jewish community, according to Ynet.
“What is happening in Kyiv is hell,” Meira told the site. “Children, women, and men are in shelters without electricity and without basic equipment. We are in contact with them, and the situation is very difficult.”
“My husband told me that I should take the children and travel quickly to Israel,” she added.
“We packed five suitcases and arrived here with almost nothing. Only a bag with clothes. Many Jews and non-Jews are trying to escape the war, similar to us.”
She told Ynet that she had never considered immigrating, “but the war changed everything”.