Jews Begin Evacuating From Ukraine's Odessa as Russia Attacks, Israel Pledges Aid

Jewish community sends groups on buses to unspecified locations abroad ■ Israel's diaspora minister says ministry is 'preparing an aid package for Jewish communities in Ukraine and will assist them any way we can'

Samuel Sokol is a freelance journalist based in Jerusalem. He was previously a correspondent at the Jerusalem Post and has reported for the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, the Israel Broadcasting Authority and the Times of Israel. He is the author of Putin’s Hybrid War and the Jews.
Sam Sokol
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Demonstrators holding a huge Ukrainian flag march along the street in Odessa, Ukraine, Sunday.
Demonstrators holding a huge Ukrainian flag march along the street in Odessa, Ukraine, Sunday.Credit: Emilio Morenatti /AP
Samuel Sokol is a freelance journalist based in Jerusalem. He was previously a correspondent at the Jerusalem Post and has reported for the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, the Israel Broadcasting Authority and the Times of Israel. He is the author of Putin’s Hybrid War and the Jews.
Sam Sokol

The Jewish community of Odessa, Ukraine, has begun evacuating members to nearby countries following the Russian invasion on Thursday.

“We’re sending groups out in different ways via different borders. I want to get the people out,” said Refael Kruskal of the city’s Tikva Children's Home. Several buses are taking the community members to unspecified destinations abroad.

“This morning, as soon as we heard the explosions around 4 A.M., I sent a message to everybody to stay at home and I went to the synagogue to meet with the security services and [Rabbi Shlomo Baksht] and we worked on plans. So we’re looking at ways to either hunker down in Odessa or to get out in other ways,” he said.

“We sent out a number of buses and we’re hoping to send out more. We’re hoping to get as many people out as possible. And those who stay, we will guard them as much as we can.”

He also said that a video of a group of Orthodox Jewish men dancing and singing next to their packed suitcases in the local synagogue highlighted the community’s efforts to “lift the spirits of those leaving and now on the way to the border.”

Earlier on Thursday, neighboring Moldova’s small Jewish community announced that it had prepared a fleet of buses to evacuate Jews fleeing the conflict, saying in a statement that it had “made extensive preparations” for a Russian offensive “with the aim of absorbing thousands of Israelis and Jews fleeing the war zones in Ukraine.”

Thursday’s invasion marks the largest escalation since Russian forces annexed the Crimean Peninsula and orchestrated an insurgency in the eastern Donbas region in 2014 that has claimed more than 14,000 lives. A massive wave of Ukrainian immigration to Israel followed, with 30,000 Ukrainian Jews moving to the country between 2014 and 2018.

Responding to the crisis, Israel’s Diaspora Minister Nachman Shai announced on Thursday that Jerusalem will provide relief to Ukrainian Jews affected by the invasion, tweeting that “the State of Israel will always take care of Jews in danger wherever they may be.”

“My ministry is preparing an aid package for Jewish communities in Ukraine and will assist them any way we can,” he wrote, without providing particulars. In 2014, the ministry earmarked around 2 million shekels for aid to Jews displaced by the conflict. Haaretz understands that a final aid plan could be approved within days, but could then take up to two weeks to be implemented.

Also on Thursday, the Jewish Agency and International Fellowship of Christians and Jews announced the opening of an emergency hotline to provide aliyah information as well as what they called “general assistance for members of the Jewish community in Ukraine.”

"The Jewish Agency and The Fellowship, in coordination with the relevant government ministries, are on the ground and prepared to address various needs following the escalation in Ukraine,” acting Jewish Agency chairman Yaakov Hagoel said in a statement.

The agency is reportedly “flooded” with requests from Jews trying to flee Ukraine for Israel.

Click the alert icon to follow topics:

Comments

SUBSCRIBERS JOIN THE CONVERSATION FASTER

Automatic approval of subscriber comments.

Subscribe today and save 40%

Already signed up? LOG IN

ICYMI

U.S. antisemitism envoy Deborah Lipstadt and Prime Minister Yair Lapid shake hands, on Monday.

U.S. Envoy: ‘If This Happened in Another Country, Wouldn’t We Call It Antisemitism?’

Dr. Claris Harbon in the neighborhood where she grew up in Ashdod.

A Women's Rights Lawyer Felt She Didn't Belong in Israel. So She Moved to Morocco

Avi Zinger, the current Israeli licensee of Ben & Jerry’s, who bought the ice cream maker's business interests in Israel.

Meet the Israeli Who Wants to Rename Ben & Jerry's Chunky Monkey ‘Judea and Samaria’

Election ad featuring Yair Lapid in Rahat, the largest Arab city in Israel's Negev region.

This Bedouin City Could Decide Who Is Israel's Next Prime Minister

Mohammed 'Moha' Alshawamreh.

'It Was Real Shock to Move From a Little Muslim Village, to a Big Open World'

From the cover of 'Shmutz.'

'There Are Similarities Between the Hasidic Community and Pornography’