Daily Israel Report

Israeli Couple Saved From Mob in Kiev

Possibly pro-Russian rioters chase couple with sticks in Kiev's central square; miraculously the two manage to escape to synagogue.
By Ari Yashar
First Publish: 3/16/2014, 6:19 PM

Ukraine violence (file)
Ukraine violence (file)
Reuters

An Israeli couple in Ukraine's capital city of Kiev were rescued from a near-lynching last Friday, right before Shabbat.

Zalman Hetzklovich and his wife were walking in Kiev's Independence Square in the center of the city, when eight Ukrainians wearing uniforms and holding sticks suddenly leaped out of a van at them.

The Ukrainians pointed at the couple, shouting in Russian for them to stop.

"I understood that if I didn't run at that moment it would be the end of us," reported Hetzklovich. "I stopped a taxi and got in with my wife, asking the driver to get us out of there. The attackers surrounded the car and demanded the driver stop."

"The driver stepped on the gas and knocked over the rioters, who succeeded in damaging one side of the cab. The driver was able to drive one block away until he reached a traffic jam; we saw the pursuers were back, and had gotten into their car, starting to chase after us," recounted Hetzklovich.

The Israeli couple proceeded to get out of the taxi and run on foot several streets away, until they reached a synagogue, where they realized they had miraculously managed to escape.

'We bought them tickets back to Israel the same evening'

Rabbi Hillel Cohen, Chairman of the Kiev Hatzala emergency rescue organization, who was stabbed last Thursday by anti-Semites, spoke about the incident.

The rabbi, who was released from the hospital Saturday, said "we called up the police today during the Purim holiday to present a complaint, but apparently the government in Ukraine is dealing with more pressing problems at the moment."

"Apparently they were provocateurs that hit and stabbed me last Thursday night," noted the rabbi, adding "it's starting to come clear that there are pro-Russian rioters wanting to cause anarchy and chaos for the Ukrainian government."

Regarding the Israeli couple, the rabbi noted that "due to the tensions and danger, and after submitting the complaint, we got return tickets for them to Israel the same evening."

Extremists have reportedly been targeting the Jewish community in Ukraine, with even a member of the opposition getting in on the action. A synagogue was firebombed in late February by unknown assailants, and at least one synagogue in Crimea has also been defaced. 

Meanwhile tensions between Ukraine and Russia continued to escalate Sunday, as a referendum vote was held to determine whether the Crimean Peninsula would become part of Russia, which effectively occupied the peninsula last month, or remain part of Ukraine.

The vote would finalize or overturn a vote by Crimea's parliament earlier this month to join Russia.