As compulsory draft notices arrive in Russian homes and Vladimir Putin intensifies his military push in Ukraine, millions of families are flooding out of Russia to avoid conscription. Thousands of them are heading for Israel.
But Russians seeking refuge in the Jewish State face a cruelly two-tiered reception.
Those who are dual Russian-Israeli citizens or eligible for immigration to Israel under the Law of Return are being welcomed with open arms. Their arrival - and permanent settlement in Israel - is being actively facilitated by the country’s Foreign Ministry, Aliyah Ministry and the Jewish Agency.
The government is excitedly gearing up for an expected surge of 6,000 immigrants from Russia in the coming months - who will join the 24,707 who've fled since the invasion of Ukraine.
Those fleeing who are unable to show they have at least one Jewish grandparent - which qualifies them for immigrant status - are out of luck. Like more than 2,000 who tried to enter on tourist visas since Putin invaded, many are being placed in detention facilities at Ben-Gurion Airport and summarily deported. As the number of arrivals increases, so will that of deportations.
In one particularly heartbreaking case, the severely disabled wife of an Israeli citizen and her young son were detained for five hours and then deported, while both her husband and her wheelchair stayed in Israel. Yulia and David Even-Tov are now temporarily reunited in Turkey, but their future is uncertain.
Will the family, who had already submitted documents for the mother and son’s immigration and rented an apartment, make it to Israel? The bureaucracy in place is designed for black and white situations - Jews seeking to immigrate or illegal workers trying to “infiltrate.” There's little room for shades of gray or chaotic situations - precisely the state of affairs in both Ukraine and Russia.
As he watched his wife and son’s flight depart, David Even-Tov lamented that none of the clerks at the airport regarded his wife “as a human being.” A bit more humanity in this challenging time would go a long way.
Read more of Haaretz’s coverage of the war in Ukraine:
- Israel readies for arrival of thousands of Russian immigrants after draft announcement
- Kyiv had a thriving Jewish community. Then came Putin's war
- Now you’re coming to Ukraine’s aid? / Opinion
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