Demonstrators demand cap on Ukrainian refugees outside minister’s home

Israel must first and foremost protect the Jewish character of the state, the protesters say.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Dozens of protesters took to the street outside Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked’s home Saturday night to demonstrate against Israel’s new policy on Ukrainian refugees, Hebrew-language site 0404 reported.

Otzma Yehudit chairman MK Itamar Ben-Gvir told the crowd in Raanana, “Minister Shaked is the basis of the government, but she has no backbone, she folds at every junction.”

“The gates of repentance have not been locked, it’s not too late yet, Ayelet,” he said, poetically invoking a common saying from the liturgy of Yom Kippur, the annual Day of Judgment.

“The government does not care about the consequences of approving the entry of tens of thousands of refugees who may settle here and harm the Jewish character of the State of Israel. Ayelet, you know that and you also know that Europe has room for everyone but that’s not the case in little Israel.”

The minister has flipflopped over the last two weeks over who should be allowed into Israel from the wartorn country since Russia’s invasion last month. Well over three million people, mostly women, children and the elderly, have fled Ukraine so far, with possibly tens of thousands of Jews among them.

At first, the government said that besides allowing the approximately 20,000 Ukrainians who were already residing illegally in Israel to stay, it would allow 5,000 more current refugees to remain — in addition to welcoming Jewish refugees in any number with open arms.

“It is only natural that Israel should focus on absorbing Jewish refugees and those eligible under the Law of Return,” Shaked said at the time.

The Law of Return already grants citizenship to non-Jews married to Jews or who have at least one Jewish grandparent. Jewish law states that a person must have a Jewish mother to be considered a born Jew.

Protestors from the opposite side of the political map immediately demonstrated against the initial policy near Shaked’s home, calling it an embarrassment that Jews who had been hounded throughout history should not welcome those fleeing from war.

Shaked then changed her ruling and announced that Israel would allow entry to any Ukrainian refugee with a relative in Israel, aside from those included in the 5,000 cap. Foreign Minister Lapid praised the change as “finding the balance” between unrestricted entry and closing the borders to those whose lives were in immediate danger and about whom “there is no fear that they will settle down for work.”

MK Betzalel Smotrich, head of the Religious Zionism party, slammed the reversal, saying, “It’s amazing how fast the well-greased propaganda machine of the left collapses the spineless right-wingers [in the government]. But forget about…the future of the Jewish state, the main thing was to prevent a fifth election.”

According to the Population and Immigration Authority, by Thursday, 11,390 Ukrainian refugees, including those eligible for citizenship under the Law of Return, had arrived in Israel since the war began.