Israel hoping war in Ukraine will see wave of Ukrainian Jews emigrating to Israel

Israel has close ties with the US yet also has an understanding with Russia that allows Israeli military aircraft to operate over Syria

Israel is hoping that the war in Ukraine will lead to a wave of Ukrainian Jews emigrating to Israel.

More than 5,000 Ukrainian Jews have requested to move to Israel over the last few days. and at the weekend the Jewish Agency, a quasi-governmental body that handles Jewish immigration, set up six processing stations on Ukraine's borders with Poland, Moldova, Romania and Hungary.

Israeli diplomats have been instructed to operate across the border in Poland and the immigrants will be housed in hotels and apartments there before they can board flights to Israel.

The agency also set up emergency hotlines to answer questions about the immigration process.


The immigration of Jews from around the world, aliyah in Hebrew, has always been a central tenet of Zionism. Historically mass aliyah has often been from countries where the Jewish population felt threatened.

Some 200,000 people in Ukraine are eligible to immigrate under Israel’s law of return, which requires a person to have at least one Jewish grandparent in order to receive Israeli citizenship.

More than 50,000 Ukrainian Jews emigrated to Israel in the past decade – 13,000 of them arriving in the past three years.

Finance minister Avigdor Lieberman, himself an immigrant from Moldova, called on the Ukrainian Jews to emigrate. "We will make available any budget needed to absorb new immigrants from Ukraine," he promised. "Don't be afraid to come."

Balancing act

Meanwhile, Israel is trying to maintain a delicate diplomatic balancing act of condemning the Russian invasion in a way that will not overly antagonise Moscow.

Although Israel considers itself part of the West and has close ties with the US and Europe, it also has a critical understanding with Russia that allows Israeli military aircraft to operate over Syria.

Hundreds of air strikes against pro-Iranian targets in Syria have been attributed to Israel in recent years and Israel is wary of doing anything that may prompt Russia to reconsider this arrangement.

Foreign minister Yair Lapid said Israel will vote in favour of a resolution condemning the Russian invasion at the UN General Assembly.

“Israel was and will be on the right side of history,” he said. “These are our values. Our alliance is with the US.”

At the same time Mr Lapid explained that “even our American allies realise we have to be careful because Russia is the significant military force in Syria”.

On Saturday night thousands of Israelis, including Ukrainian immigrants, took to the streets, chanting “No to war” and “Yes to democratic Ukraine”, as well as singing the Ukrainian national anthem

Many of the demonstrators vocally criticised the Israeli government’s initial response to the Russian invasion, calling it “weak” and “lacklustre”, and calling for stronger measures and rhetoric from Israeli leaders.