March 15, 2022 11:43 am at 11:43 am #2067497Shalom-al-IsraelParticipant
Patrick Kingsley, “Once victims in Southeast Europe, Jews come to the aid of Ukrainians fleeing”, The New York Times, Mar 7, ’22.
CHISINAU, Moldova — At a synagogue in central Chisinau on Monday, an Israeli social worker, Omer Hod, had a flash of historic vertigo. Ms Hod’s ancestors had lived in Chisinau more than a century ago, surviving a devastating pogrom in 1903 before emigrating to what became Israel. Now their descendant had returned to the Moldavian capital – this time not as a victim, but as a rescuer.
“It’s like a closure for me,” said Ms. Hod, a 26-year-old from Jerusalem who had come to Chisinau to help evacuate thousands of Jewish refugees from Ukraine to Israel.
“At the time, it was almost a shame to be Jewish,” Ms Hod said. “Now people want to show they are Jewish so they can be evacuated.”
Today, as in the early 1900s, Jews are once again escaping violence in southeastern Europe. But the context is radically different — cathartically for the many Israelis who have come here to join the relief effort.
A century ago, Jews fled widespread anti-Semitic attacks in cities like Chisinau and Odessa — pogroms that prompted early Zionists to emigrate independently to Palestine. Today, the violence is not anti-Semitic. And this time, representatives of the Jewish state, along with an unusually large number of independent Israeli humanitarian organizations, are now waiting at Ukraine’s borders to guide Ukrainian Jews to Israel.
The Chisinau pogrom, also known as the Kishinev pogrom, “was a very pivotal event that propelled modern Zionism forward,” Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said in a telephone interview on Monday. “In the same Kishinev, right now, we are saving Jews,” Bennett added. “Israel’s raison d’être is to be a safe haven for every Jew in danger. We didn’t have it in 1903. We have it now.
The Israeli government expects 20,000 Ukrainian Jews to emigrate to Israel, or 10% of the estimated Jewish population in Ukraine, and says it is also seeing an increase in applications from Russian Jews. More than 2,000 Ukrainians have already been airlifted to Israel since the start of the war, nearly 500 of whom have at least one Jewish grandparent.
Teams from the Jewish Agency, a non-profit organization that operates in coordination with the Israeli government and assists Jews interested in immigrating to Israel, are waiting in several European countries to organize their emigration. Israeli aid and emergency groups like United Hatzalah of Israel and IsraAID are at border crossings to provide medical and psychological support, to Jews and non-Jews alike, and often to provide temporary housing. Israeli airliners wait at regional airports to transport new immigrants to Tel Aviv.
At the diplomatic level, Mr. Bennett played a central role in the negotiations between Russia and Ukraine. While he has been criticized for not taking a tougher stance against the Russian invasion, Mr Bennett’s neutral stance has allowed him to take on a mediating role that analysts say is unprecedented for an Israeli leader during a war between other countries.
This combined Israeli aid and diplomatic effort has moved many Israelis, especially those on the ground in Europe.
“It feels like some sort of reparation,” said Jill Shames, another Israeli social worker at the synagogue whose ancestors also escaped nearby pogroms in the late 1800s.
Like Ms. Hod, Ms. Shames provided psychological support to refugees on behalf of United Hatzalah. “We are doing now what we couldn’t do then,” Ms Shames said.
The Agudath Israel Synagogue is one of many hubs in the city serving as a staging post for Ukrainian Jews en route to Israel. On Monday, the building was a packed carousel of people coming and going, some just arriving from the border, others cramming into buses that would take them to an airport in eastern Romania. Some families slept in the synagogue itself, a few feet from its Torah scrolls.
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