Jews in Ukraine prepare for the worst, stockpile essentials

Kyiv chief rabbi said his community is preparing for a siege, while other community rabbis said that they’re beginning to stockpile essential resources.  

By World Israel News Staff

The reality that Russia could invade Ukraine became even more evident over the weekend, and local Jews are beginning to stockpile emergency resources.

Kyiv head rabbi Yonatan Markovich said that his community, alongside other Chabad emissaries, decided that they are not heeding Israel’s call for citizens to evacuate, but instead are buckling down. Chabad has an estimated 150 emissary families, not including local hasidic Jews, in the country.

The rabbi said preparations began this past weekend and the fear of something changing became palpable.

“Until Saturday we didn’t really feel pressure but on Shabbat, we suddenly started to feel a different situation and a little pressured,” he said.

Markovich, himself an Israeli citizen, said the Jewish community was essentially preparing for a siege. His synagogue, he told Walla, has been turned into a shelter with mattresses, food and water.

“We have already prepared places for Jews and Israelis who want to… be together,” he said, adding that by having everyone gathered in one place, “if they want to evacuate and there are rescue flights, it will be easier to organize it.”

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The rabbi said that while others are able to leave, he feels a responsibility to stay behind due to his role in the community.

“The Rebbe of Lubavitch sent us here, to be with every Jew who is still here, and here we stay,” he said.

Chief rabbi of Kherson, Yitzhak Wolfe, another Chabad emissary, told KAN News that his community has been stockpiling basic foods for a while as well.

A senior official of the Federation of Jewish Communities noted that “while all Jewish organizations are fleeing Ukraine, our rabbis are all in place and are here to stay.”

The Chabad affiliate is stockpiling satellite phones, rice, buckwheat, canned foods, portable lanterns and batteries, all of which is being funded by The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett implored Israeli citizens to return to Israel on Sunday, while Foreign Minister Yair Lapid ensured that airline companies would increase flights.

A senior Israeli official said that should Ukrainian Jews want to take refuge in Israel but not obtain citizenship, it would be permitted, “as Israel was established in order to be a safe haven for Jews.”

In his interview with Walla, however, Markovich admitted that whereas Israelis could arrange to be evacuated, “for other Jews it is more complicated.”

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Israeli airlines operating flights between Ukraine and Israel have not reported an unusual spike in ticket purchases, despite warnings by community leaders that tourists should leave.

Israeli Ambassador to Ukraine Michael Brodsky said it was important that Israelis leave the country.

Uman’s chief rabbi Yaakov Jan published a letter Saturday night saying that tourists “must certainly leave Ukraine by Wednesday” and those who live in the city should take a vacation “until the anger calms.”