Daily Israel Report

Crimea's 4,000 Jews Doing Fine, Knesset Told

Ukraine Jewish leaders give Speaker Edelstein a live update on the situation of Ukraine's Jews at present.
By Hezki Ezra, Gil Ronen
First Publish: 3/19/2014, 9:22 AM

Video conference in Knesset
Video conference in Knesset
Screenshot

Knesset Speaker MK Yuli Edelstein (Likud-Beytenu) and Knesset Director Ronen Plott held a video conference call Tuesday with several leaders of the Jewish community in the Ukraine, from the city of Dnipropetrovsk. The call was the first-ever to be held from the Knesset's newly-inaugurated VIP room.

One of the leaders, Rabbi Meir Stembler, told Edelstein that “there is tension in the air but no Jew is hiding his Jewishness or hiding out. While there are anti-Semitic manifestations, there is no systemic anti-Semitism. Nor do we feel more threatened after the revolution.”

Akina Tipilitzky of the Beit Hanna community house said that 5,000 'michlochei manot' Purim meals were distributed in the community, and that preparations for Pesach are underway. There was no decline in the number of celebrants, she said.

“We have also been in touch with the Jewish community in the Crimean paninsula,” Tiplitzky added. “The situation there is fine and they, too, are preparing for Pesach.”

Igor Shobag, a member of the Jewish community and a Holocaust and anti-Semitism researcher, told Speaker Edelstein that “among right wing elements in Ukraine, too, there are forces that it is possible to cooperate with. We did so on a regular basis in the past, too, in order to help develop a Ukraine that has no hatred of foreigners and Jews.”

Rabbi Stembler insisted that the Jews “feel security and there are no fears.” He added, though, that as far as the community's security is concerned, “Israel can assist us with all of the security experience it has. The situation now is good but it may get worse. A situation could arise in which Ukraine's Jews flee, and prefer to make aliyah to Israel.”

Many Jews took part in the protests that toppled the former prime minister, the rabbi said. In addition, the fact that some of the people wounded in those clashes were treated in Israeli hospitals, was noted in local media, and this created goodwill, he added.

Speaker Edelstein said that he would continue to follow events in the Ukraine, and that direct contact with the Jewish community is very important to him. “We will discuss the requests you made and I hope and believe that we can help, wherever needed.”