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Once Again, Russia Refuses Israeli Culture Center

Bits and pieces on Russian FM visit to Israel continue to emerge. It has now been learned that Lavrov nixed Israeli culture center in Novosibirsk.
By Hillel Fendel
First Publish: 7/1/2010, 3:19 PM / Last Update: 7/1/2010, 7:09 PM

Bits and pieces of information on Russia’s Foreign Minister’s visit to Israel continue to emerge. It has now been learned that Lavrov turned down yet another Israeli request for an Israeli culture center in Novosibirsk.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has been trying to obtain permission for the establishment of the cultural center in Russia’s third-largest city. The center would be run by Nativ, the bureau engaged in promoting Aliyah and other Jewish concepts among Russian Jewry. However, because Nativ was once an intelligence-gathering organization, Russia has said no.

Haaretz
reports that the latest refusal came this week when Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met in Israel with his Israeli counterpart, Lieberman. Though Lieberman guaranteed Lavrov that Nativ is not involved in any espionage work in Russia, and said the goal is only to prevent assimilation of Jews, Lavrov turned him down.

Nativ, which operates out of the Prime Minister's Office, was founded in 1952 by David Ben-Gurion, who wished to maintain contact with Jews behind the Iron Curtain. Only in 1989 did it begin to operate openly, later receiving official Russian permission to operate in Russia.

Some 20 Nativ emissaries and several “mobile consuls" currently operate in 11 regions of the former Soviet Union. Nativ’s activities center around four regions: Caucasus-Asia, Ukraine-Moldova, Russia-Belarus, and the Western Baltic area, which includes Germany.  

Lieberman has said in the past that Nativ is the only organization representing Israel throughout the former Soviet Union: “There are other Jewish organizations, but they work to perpetuate the Jewish communities there. Nativ’s goal is to stand for the State of Israel and to increase Aliyah... There are those who want to bury Nativ – but I believe the opposite should be the case. All the other organizations, including the Jewish Agency – except for Birthright – are dealing with little things, looking for ways to occupy themselves… The Jewish organizations compete among themselves, and we must not let that happen – and Nativ should be the address to stop it.”