Shaky truce continues between gov't, rebels
Shaky truce continues between gov't, rebelsReuters

As a shaky ceasefire continues to hold in Ukraine between government and pro-Russian rebel forces, many civilians caught in the middle of the conflict are still homeless refugees in their own country. 

Among them are some 5,000 Jews who fled fierce battles in the cities of Donetsk and Luhansk, where several community members were killed in the fighting.

In order to help those refugees still languishing in camps as the High Holidays approach, the International Fellowship of Jews and Christians (IFJC) has taken the decision in recent days to extend an emergency humanitarian aid pack for the upcoming Rosh Hashana (Jew New Year) and Sukkot holidays, to the tune of two million shekels.

The aid includes a family certificate to purchase clothing and also an enlarged food pack. The distribution will take place at a few centers of Jewish refugees across Ukraine with the cooperation of the Jewish communities in the country.

Despite the ceasefire that was signed a fortnight ago between Russian separatists and the Ukrainian government, separatists continue to control East Ukraine, a situation which prevents thousands of Ukrainian refugees from returning to their homes. As the war broke out, the IFJC had established a Jewish refugee camp in Zhytomyr in West Ukraine, which has served some 1,000 people to date. In addition, the IFJC mobilized volunteers to help smuggle out Jews of the line of fire, as well as extending help to those trapped inside.  

The latest aid package was carried out in collaboration with Eastern European clothing retailer "Gloria Jeans", which has several branches in Ukraine. It was agreed that every refugee will receive a certificate for purchasing clothing in one of the company's stores worth up to 100 dollars, a substantial sum in Ukrainian terms.

The food packages will be handed out in a special logistical center that was established for this cause in Kiev. From there, the packages will be conveyed by trucks to various Jewish centers which are not controlled by the rebels, where Jewish refugees have gathered, and they will be distributed there.

"The condition of the refugees is very difficult," said an ICFJ spokesman.

"Most of them were sure they would return to their homes within a month," he added, but noted that "it has been 3 months now" and many are still homeless and penniless.

"In one moment, thousands of people joined the circle of neediness and we make sure that they will not be forgotten," he said.

The IDFJ's Ukrainian aid is part of a wider 11 million shekel effort to help relieve poverty in Jewish communities which also runs in Israel.

The Israeli project includes providing food certificates to needy families, as well as clothing certificates which are distributed to some 55,000 people in need, in cooperation with Israeli fashion retailer "H&O".