‘Everyone is shaking here’: Israelis, Jews in Ukraine feel start of war

“I can see some of the shooting [but] we cannot see the news, I have no idea what is happening and how it is happening.”

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Israelis and Jews all over the Ukraine are feeling the beginning of Russia’s invasion.

Although the Donbas region, where the self-declared republics of Luhansk and Donetsk are located, is on the eastern edge of Ukraine, shelling has been reported in cities across the country.

In the neighboring region’s capital of Kharkiv, one Jewish resident told Channel 12 News, “There has been heavy shelling since five in the morning, from the northern and western border. There is an airport in the area, and they shelled it. I can see some of the shooting [but] we cannot see the news, I have no idea what is happening and how it is happening.”

“There are crazy lines at the gas stations,” said another resident. “It has been announced here that we are entering a state of war…. People are very stressed.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky declared a 30-day state of emergency and a call-up of all men of military age. He said that his country will not initiate hostilities across the line of conflict in Donbas, but Ukrainian army personnel have already taken hits there by pro-Russian separatists shooting Grad rockets, mortars and heavy artillery, killing one and injuring six soldiers.

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The centrally located capital of Kyiv (Kiev) has been hit as well.

“I was in Kiev at night and we woke up this morning to the sound of heavy gunfire, artillery fire that as far as we understand is aimed at the army and not at the population,” Rabbi Liron Edri, chairman of the Association for the Development of Jewish Communities in Ukraine, told Channel 12.

“Of course there was a commotion; many people are trying to leave Ukraine [but] the train stations are closed.”

Edri praised the “exemplary behavior” of his fellow rabbinic and community leaders, who are staying put in their homes and “strengthening the hands” of their local Jewish populations so they do not panic. Still, an emergency meeting of rabbis is reportedly being planned to decide whether to evacuate children to safer areas.

Channel 14 has reported that Jews in Uman, a central city famed for being the burial place of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, are trying to escape, but that there is “chaos” because the emergency plan is not working due to the refusal of the bus drivers to travel.

Even Lviv, where Israel has just moved its embassy because it is on the western border, has been affected.

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The city’s chief rabbi, Mordechai Shlomo Bold, told Channel 14 that there have been “alarms several times now,” which “nobody” thought would happen so far away from the conflict region. “

“Now everyone is shaking here,” he said.

Israel has been calling for its citizens to leave the country for weeks. Ukraine closed its airspace at 3AM, leaving ground border stations as the only way to get out.

“Whoever can independently reach the western border and cross the border should do so,” said Ambassador Michael Brodsky Thursday. “Whoever cannot, should come to Lviv to the embassy and we will help him and if necessary we will also issue him travel documents.”

Israel has also stationed Foreign Ministry personnel at five major crossings — Poland, Moldova, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania. An estimated 5,000 Israelis had heeded the government’s plea to leave.