Belarus Waives Visa Requirements for Israelis

Move to boost bilateral relations comes on eve of event commemorating former Israeli PM Ariel Sharon, whose parents immigrated from Belarus.

Tags: Belarus Visa
Arutz Sheva Staff ,

Israeli passport (illustrative)
Israeli passport (illustrative)
Flash 90

In a move which will likely boost relations between the two countries considerably, Israel’s ambassador to Belarus, Yosef Shagall, has announced that the requirement of an entrance visa to Belarus for Israeli citizens is to be cancelled. The decision was reached after negotiations between the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem and the government of Belarus.

The ambassador announced the decision during the opening ceremony of Limmud FSU (Former Soviet Union) in the Municipal Theater of Vitebsk, which was attended by some 700 participants, including representatives of the government of Belarus, the president of the Jewish community, Boris Gerstein and the founder of Limmud FSU, Chaim Chesler. The ambassador made a special point of thanking Limmud FSU for its contribution to strengthening cultural relations and tourism between the Jewish people and Belarus.

Limmud FSU will be attended by more than 600 participants from Belarus, the neighboring countries and Israel. The three-day conference will be taking place in Vitebsk, the birthplace and childhood home of Marc Chagall, the noted Jewish artist. Some 70,000 Jews live in Belarus today.

The Minister of Culture of the Vitebsk province, Larissa Olanskaya, pointed out that several world famous artists grew up in Vitebsk, including Chagall, the arts teacher Yehuda Penn and many others. She lauded the contribution of the Jews of Belarus to world culture and to the development of the State of Israel, notably Eliezer Ben Yehuda, the reviver of Hebrew as a modern spoken language.

Chaim Chesler emphasized that the decision to cancel the visa requirement will make a valuable contribution to relations with Israel and the Jewish people in general, and in particular, will strengthen the local Jewish community.

The announcement came after months of discussions between the two nations, and as Israel continues to strengthen ties with Eastern European states. Among the issues that loomed large were those surrounding immigration and security issues. Israel wants to ensure that it is not flooded with migrants from third countries who will take advantage of the open travel between Israel and Belarus to reach Israel.

A similar deal was signed with another former Soviet republic, Georgia, in January of this year.

Belarus declared independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, and established relations with Israel in 1992. The two countries have signed a series of agreements, including agreements to fight international crime jointly, agricultural development agreements, aviation agreements, investment protection agreements, education, tourism, and more.

Limmud FSU conferences are among the most prominent Jewish cultural events throughout the Russian-speaking world. The events are an expression of Jewish learning and identity and they embrace a wide variety of subjects through lectures, round-table discussions, workshops, master-classes and a range of cultural activities (with a special emphasis on the arts), including music, dance and even cooking. Limmud Vitebsk is entirely planned and organized by volunteers from the Belarus Jewish community and more than 100 presentations will be given.

On Monday,15 September, in the framework of the festival, an official memorial event and photographic exhibition to commemorate the life of the late Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, both of whose parents immigrated from Belarus (Belorussia as it was then). The event will be held in the National Historical Museum of Minsk, the capital of Belarus, in cooperation with the government of Belarus, the Israel Embassy and the local Jewish community, and with the participation of Gilad Sharon, son of the late prime minister and the former government secretary, Israel Maimon.

Included in the exhibition are photographs from the Sharon family’s private collection, the IDF Archives, the Ministry of Defense and the Government Press Office. It will also contain photographs from the estate of the late journalist Uri Dann, who was a close friend of Arik Sharon, and the photographer Ziv Koren. The curator of the exhibition is Marit Danon, director of the Prime Ministers Bureau under Sharon.