Minister says number of potential immigrants from Ukraine is unclear but Israel is ready to provide emergency evacuation for up to 200,000.
By World Israel News Staff
Israeli government officials, including Aliyah and Integration Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata, said Monday that the Jewish State is prepared to go to great lengths to ensure that Jews and Israelis in Ukraine can be brought safely to Israel, as an invasion by neighboring Russia appears imminent.
Reports of the evacuation plan come after repeated calls from Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid for Israelis to return home — and a less than bombastic response from Israelis and Jews currently in the country.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry estimates there are some 15,000 Israeli citizens currently in the eastern European country, along with up to 200,000 Ukrainians with Jewish heritage who could potentially claim Israeli citizenship according to the Law of Return.
The Israeli government was mum on specific details, but a number of prominent lawmakers have said the country is gearing up to repatriate Jews, either via overland routes or rescue flights, and provide them with temporary shelter once they reach Tel Aviv.
Tamano-Shata said that although “we have no way to know at this moment how many potential olim [immigrants] will enter Israel…we need to be prepared.”
She added that “tens of thousands or just thousands” of Ukrainian Jews could potentially be interested in an emergency evacuation.
An unnamed government official told the Jerusalem Post that settling in Israel would not be a requirement for Jews seeking to be airlifted to safety.
“The Jewish state was established in order to be a safe haven for Jews,” the official said. “Therefore, we do not differentiate between those who wish to make aliyah [immigrate to Israel] and those who are just interested in saving their lives.”
Referencing the lack of panic among Jews and Israelis currently in Ukraine, the official suggested that once a military clash begins, attitudes will rapidly shift.
“We know that the second the first gun is shot, we’re going to be in a whole different ball game, and many more will be interested,” the official said.