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Faced with the “madness” in their country, thousands of Russian Jews fled to Israel
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Faced with the “madness” in their country, thousands of Russian Jews fled to Israel

A few months ago, Rabbi Yosef Hersonski hesitated to open a kindergarten in his Russian-speaking Jewish community center in Tel Aviv: there was a lack of candidates. Today, the ultra-Orthodox cleric no longer takes new registrations, for lack of space in the small house in the middle of the skyscrapers under construction. “Thank you, Putin! My community has doubled, maybe even more, since February [début de la guerre en Ukraine], exclaims this Israeli born in the Soviet Union and who served for a long time in Russia, before being banned from staying there in 2017. The people who emigrate today come from the big cities, they come from privileged backgrounds. The community is much stronger thanks to them. »

In its center, called Jewish Point, Ukrainians and Russians mingle, children circulate happily between the tables and, in the next room, three adults telecommute in Russian, despite the hubbub. On Saturdays, the main hall becomes a synagogue, in the evening, readings and conferences are held there. Cap screwed on the yarmulke and electric scooter at hand, the rabbi welcomes everyone, believer or not. Most Jewish Russians in Israel are not religious and this new wave is no exception: “30% of my community call themselves atheist”he confirms.

no visa required

In the wake of the war launched by Vladimir Putin on February 24, Israel was preparing for an influx of Ukrainian refugees; the Russian emigrants are finally the most numerous. According to authorities, in the past six months just over 20,700 Jews from Russia have made aliyah – a Hebrew term for “the rise”, the emigration of Jews to Israel, a movement strongly encouraged by the authorities for reasons demographics compared to Palestinians – compared to 12,500 Ukrainians.

To these are added those who already possessed Israeli nationality and kept their passports in a drawer, just in case”notes Larissa Remennick, a sociologist at the Israeli University of Bar-Ilan, herself arriving from Moscow during the great wave of emigration of Soviet Jews in the early 1990s. “Others lived between the two countries, were already going back and forth. » In addition to the subsidies granted to any applicant for Aliyah, Russians, Ukrainians and Belarusians are entitled to an additional allowance. For Russian Jews, Israel is an ideal destination: unlike European countries, the Jewish state does not require a visa.

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