By Amit Acco, Partner
On September 21, the Russian government began a mobilization of its citizens to the armed forces in support of its invasion of Ukraine. Israel is preparing for the expected increase in the number of Jewish immigrants from Russia, following President Vladimir Putin’s decision.
Despite the good will on October 2, Haaretz advised that Russian citizens who have arrived in Israel encountering difficulties: about 6,500 Russians have arrived in Israel since September 21, and the entry of 135 was refused. According to the Ministry of Absorption and “Nativ”, more than 900 of them held immigration visas or claimed eligibility under the Law of Return. Andrey, who is married to a Jewish wife, received a deportation order in Israel, and only after he appealed was he allowed to enter with a deposit of NIS 5,000 as a guarantee.
Currently, Two out of every three immigrants to Israel come from either Russia or Ukraine. Over the past decade, the total aliyah has virtually doubled (from nearly 15,500 in 2008 to nearly 29,500 in 2018). Russians accounted for 47 percent while 25 percent were people who came from Ukraine. The number of Jews in Russia is nearly more than 165,000.
According to a new government plan, the cabinet will allocate NIS 90 million, for taking in Russians entitled to immigrate to Israel under the Law of Return. Following the mobilization of reserve troops announced by Russia last week for the war in Ukraine, Israel expects an increase in immigration from Russia with an estimated 5.400 Jews reaching Israel from there in each of the coming three months.
According to official Israeli agencies, there has been a huge rise in the number of Russian Jews that already hold papers to immigrate to Israel and in applications for immigration documents. The plan for the Russian immigrants includes solutions for housing, employment, health services, education, and more, while their applications are still pending.
Minister of Aliyah Tamano-Shata said,
“The State of Israel serves as a safe haven for every Jew in the world including the Jews of Russia. We will make sure that all immigrants from Russia who come here due to complicated circumstances will receive a comprehensive and appropriate package to best integrate them into Israeli society.” and ““We are doing everything in our power to help them reach Israel safely, despite all the challenges in their path at the moment”.
Minister of Finance Avigdor Liberman said,
“The State of Israel makes every effort to bring to Israel as many immigrants as possible. The Ministry of Finance headed by me will not save on any resources in order to allow immigration to Israel for everyone who is eligible and wants to come and will invest in a quality and effective integration process. Immigration is a strategic asset for the state and leverages massive growth and we are committed to encouraging it and investing in it.”
Prime Minister Yair Lapid said during the weekly Cabinet meeting on Sunday:
“We expect tens of thousands of Olim in the coming months. We are preparing for this and welcome this,”
Israel’s national carrier, El Al Airlines, is among the few that have maintained service from the Russian capital. But Russian authorities have reportedly refused requests from Israel to increase the number of El Al departures from Moscow. Flights from Moscow are sold out at more than double the usual price, and tickets are also being resold on the black market, with prices as high as NIS 23,000 for a one-way flight to Tel Aviv, according to Ynet.
Russia’s former Chief Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, who left Russia at the start of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, urged everyone who “can get out, to get out…the situation will only get worse.”