Exodus from Ukraine
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This piece was originally published by the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI), our international partner agency.
DNEPROPETROVSK, UKRAINE – Dozens of Jews from war-torn eastern Ukraine who will be immigrating to Israel in the coming days celebrated the upcoming holiday of Passover at a simulated seder (ritual meal) held at The Jewish Agency for Israel's refugee center outside the city of Dnepropetrovsk Sunday evening (March 29). The celebrants included seven children between the ages of two and ten, who learned about the holiday for the first time.
Chairman of the Executive of The Jewish Agency Natan Sharansky said: "The Jews who are living at The Jewish Agency's refugee center in Dnepropetrovsk left their entire lives behind in order to give their children a better future in Israel. Their decision to immigrate to Israel on the eve of Passover is deeply significant."
According to Jewish Agency data, Aliyah (immigration to Israel) from Ukraine has skyrocketed since the outbreak of hostilities in the eastern part of the country. In 2014, some 5,840 individuals immigrated to Israel from Ukraine, compared to some 2,020 the previous year. The increase in continuing in 2015, with some 1,400 arrivals during the first three months of the year compared to approximately 400 in 2014.
In light of the situation in eastern Ukraine, The Jewish Agency is providing immediate assistance to Jews who wish to immigrate to Israel while increasing its investment in Jewish institutions' security infrastructure. The Jewish Agency has established a special refugee center outside the city of Dnepropetrovsk in order to accommodate Jews fleeing the embattled region and prepare them for their immigration to Israel, providing them with food and shelter, offering them intensive Hebrew classes, and preparing them for life in Israel. Hundreds of immigrants have already passed through the center, which is supported by contributions from The Jewish Agency's longtime Christian partners.
According to Jewish Agency estimates, there are some 200,000 individuals eligible to make Aliyah in Ukraine. Jewish Agency representatives, who are spread throughout the country, focus their efforts on handling the Aliyah process while strengthening Ukrainian Jews' ties to Israel and to Jewish life by both engaging in Jewish education in Ukraine and bringing hundreds of young people to experience Israel on Jewish Agency programs each year. The Jewish Agency's activities in Ukraine take place in cooperation with the Government of Israel and with the support of Jewish communities, organizations, and donors in Israel and around the world.
Margarita and Robert Artyunyan, from the embattled city of Donetsk, are currently living in The Jewish Agency's refugee center along with their four-year-old son Vadim. Their fifteen-year-old daughter Karina began her studies in Israel several months ago and the rest of the family will be immigrating to Israel this week and will be celebrating their first Passover as Israelis. "We tried to avoid going outside unless it was absolutely necessary and we kept our son home from kindergarten," said Robert. "The city was divided between neighborhoods that were relatively quiet and others that were like hell," said Margarita. "Gunfire was fairly rare in our neighborhood, but we already knew how to tell where the shells would fall before they exploded. Thank God, we are immigrating to Israel this week. We hope life will be much better there."