Israeli city welcomes fleeing Ukrainian Jews

In a car parking zone beneath his municipality workplace in northern Israel, Nof Hagalil mayor Ronen Plot juggled telephone calls as volunteers unloaded blankets and garments donated for refugees fleeing struggle in Ukraine.

“Nof Hagalil is constructed on immigration,” stated Plot, 67, who arrived in Israel practically 50 years in the past from Moldova. “We’ll take up as many individuals as we will.”

After the Russian invasion started, Plot posted on Fb, inviting Ukrainian “olim”, or Jewish immigrants, to his city and urging residents to pitch in.

“If an enormous immigration wave arrives, we might be completely satisfied to participate within the Israeli effort,” he wrote.

Beneath Israel’s “regulation of return”, anybody with not less than one Jewish father or mother or grandparent is entitled to citizenship.

Amongst these responding to Plot’s invitation was Chaim Gershman, who reached Nof Hagalil on Thursday along with his spouse Ora and their 4 kids. His mom Nelja, 60, arrived a day later.

Gershman stated he had only one hour to pack, as Russian bombs fell on his neighborhood close to Kyiv. He left sporting work garments from fixing a faucet.

“At first, we did not imagine a factor like this may occur and we thought it was pretend,” stated Gershman.

He stated when he arrived in Israel, he selected Nof Hagalil due to the mayor’s posts.

“I noticed a person inviting, saying come to our metropolis, we’ll welcome you,” he stated.

Plot stated his neighborhood gives a well-known surroundings as a result of greater than half its 50,000 residents communicate Russian.

Outlets promote Belarusian herring and Georgian glowing water, and road indicators are translated into Russian.

The mayor stated he situated 600 empty resort rooms and 300 vacant residences to deal with the Ukrainians who’re “exhausted”.

“They endured a number of distress, they’re hungry and drained and it is terrible.”

– ‘We left every part’ –

The Gershmans fled the Kyiv-area city of Anatevka, constructed within the picture of the fictional Jewish village made well-known within the musical “Fiddler on the Roof.”

Escorted by police, the household drove 17 hours to succeed in the Moldovan border, solely stopping as soon as for 10 minutes amid explosions.

“We left every part we had, our complete lives,” Ora Gershman, 35, stated.

Now, the seven relations sleep in two adjoining rooms in Nof Hagalil’s Plaza Lodge. The youngsters have enrolled in class, whereas the mother and father organise paperwork and seek for everlasting lodging.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has averted forceful condemnation of Russia’s invasion, stressing Israel’s robust ties with Moscow and Kyiv.

Chaim Gershman stated he didn’t “perceive how one can keep impartial when it’s clear who the aggressor is”.

“Putin has stated they’ll solely assault army targets however in the mean time they’re bombing with out distinction,” he stated.

– ‘Unattainable’ price –

Authorities say as many as 100,000 “olim” and their households may arrive from each Ukraine and Russia, evoking an earlier wave of about one million individuals who immigrated from the collapsing former Soviet Union.

Inside minister Ayelet Shaked estimated Sunday that about 15,000 Ukrainians may attain Israel by the top of March, with 90 p.c unqualified for “return” rights. She stated that was an “unimaginable” price for the nation of 9.4 million folks.

“We’re the insurance coverage coverage for the Jewish folks,” Shaked, of Bennett’s spiritual nationalist Yamina social gathering, instructed Israeli public radio.

Israeli residents who host non-Jewish Ukrainians who aren’t their fast relations should put up a ten,000 shekel ($3,046) deposit per traveller, returnable once they depart.

Minister of Diaspora Affairs Nachman Shai wrote on Twitter: “Such a requirement at the moment is inhuman and immoral and prevents refugees fleeing the struggle and with out household in Israel from looking for refuge right here.”

Ukraine’s ambassador to Israel, Yevgen Korniychuk, instructed reporters on Monday that an settlement had been reached on deposits for non-Jewish refugees and thanked Shaked, with out offering specifics.

– Arab neighbours –

The arrival of Jews to Nof Hagalil touches a historic nerve.

It was constructed as a Jewish city within the Nineteen Fifties on land appropriated from the neighbouring Arab metropolis of Nazareth. Israel’s founding prime minister David Ben Gurion aimed to “Judaize” the Galilee, which was inhabited principally by Israel’s 20 p.c Arab minority.

Arab residents of Israel are the descendants of Palestinians who remained throughout Israel’s 1948 struggle of independence, whereas greater than 700,000 others fled or have been compelled from their houses. Israel has not allowed most Palestinian refugees to return.

With time, Arab residents have moved into Nof Hagalil, and right now they comprise a few quarter of its inhabitants.

Certainly one of them is Saed Diab, 39, the banquet supervisor of the Plaza Lodge that’s internet hosting refugees. He stated he donated hand-me-down clothes for the brand new arrivals.

“I used to be in Kyiv on vacation simply earlier than the coronavirus. Good metropolis, good folks,” he stated.

“I am sorry for what’s occurring to them.”

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