Jewish Agency Helps Ukranian Olim with Flights to Israel Amid Airport Battles

The Urina family of Donetsk pictured at their hotel in Dnepropetrovsk before their JAFI-facilitated flight to Israel.

The Urina family of Donetsk at their hotel in Dnepropetrovsk before their JAFI-facilitated flight to Israel.

The Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) facilitated an alternate flight to Israel for six Ukrainians after fighting erupted near the civilian airport in Donetsk between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian rebels following the country’s presidential election on Monday.

The group of six, including a couple from Donetsk with twin baby girls and a couple from Mariupol, was set to depart for Israel Monday night. But due to the battles, the airport was shut down, all flights were cancelled and the access road was blocked, according to a news release from JAFI.

JAFI’s Russian-Speaking Jewry unit evacuated the Ukranians to Dnepropetrovsk and put them up in a hotel until they boarded a plane to Kiev, where they then boarded another plane for Israel Tuesday morning. They arrived in Israel later on Tuesday, the release said.

“Due to the current situation in the country, we have significantly expanded our activities, assisting those who wish to immigrate to Israel, bringing young people to experience life in Israel on a variety of Jewish Agency programs, providing Hebrew classes, and so on,” Natan Sharansky, chairman of the executive for JAFI, said in the release.

JAFI’s Russian-Speaking Jewry Unit is preparing to bring additional families from the area to Israel in a similar manner if necessary. JAFI has more than 90 employees in Ukraine.

According to JAFI, immigration to Israel from Ukraine increased 142 percent in the first four months of 2014. More than 200 Ukrainians had booked flights to the Jewish state for May and June.

The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore gives approximately $3 million annually to JAFI. The federation is keeping its own tabs on the situation in Ukraine through the Baltimore-Odessa Partnership, which hired its first coordinator to work in Odessa, Marina Moldavanskaya, this year. The Associated has also raised about $100,000 in its Ukraine Assistance Fund.

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