Kazakhstan’s Chief Rabbi: “Jews Are Sitting Out The Conflict”

Chief Rabbi Yeshaya Cohen of Kazakhstan at the bar mitzvah of his son in March 2021. (Twitter/ Alliance Rabbis Islamic States)

Following the tragic report of an Israeli shot to death on Friday night amid violent protests in Kazakhstan, a senior Foreign Ministry official said there is no plan to evacuate Israelis from the country.

Gary Koren, the deputy head of the Eurasia and West Balkans division of the Foreign Ministry, told Army Radio on Sunday morning that diplomatic officials believe that the situation in Kazakhstan is now under control.

“The Internet is mostly back and stores and gas stations are beginning to open,” Koren said. “There are several dozen Israelis who traveled there to study or work and we’re in touch with them.”

Koren added that the body of Levan Kogeshvili, z’l, is still in Kazakhstan as the airport there is still closed.

Koren emphasized that Israel has good relations with Kazakhstan, including political and economic ties, and that President Kassym-Jomart Tokayeve visited Israel when he served as foreign minister.

JTA reported that the Jewish community in Almaty, Kazakhstan’s largest city, has ceased all its activities.

Rav Yeshaya Cohen, the country’s chief rabbi and Chabad shaliach, told JTA on Friday that members of the Jewish community are sitting out the conflict and staying at home until the situation stabilizes. Rav Cohen said that there are eight shuls in the country and all have suspended their activities. Rav Cohen added that Jews and their property have not been harmed. Sadly, the situation dramatically changed only hours later with the death of Kogeshvilia, z’l.

Zeev Levin, head of the Bukharian Jews research unit at Jerusalem’s Yad Ben Zvi Institute and an expert on Central Asia, told JTA that the risk of attacks on Jews or Jewish sites during the protests is almost nonexistent as the rate of antisemitism is low in the country.

”Even throughout the most vicious of civil wars that have ripped Central Asian republics in recent decades, Jewish heritage sites were largely left alone,” Levin said.

Kazakhstan is home to approximately 3,300 Jews, according to the World Jewish Congress. Most Jews live in Almaty but smaller Jewish communities are scattered in a number of cities and villages throughout the country.

(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)