Numerous ultra-Orthodox men in Kiev reportedly received draft notices for conscription into the Ukrainian army and are considering leaving the country should they be called to enlist, the daily Maariv reported.
Yeshiva students at the Kiev Chabad yeshiva, located in the Brodsky Synagogue, and the Orach Chaim yeshiva — affiliated with the Karlin-Stolin Hasidic sect — received in the past few days letters ordering them to report to the induction center.
Hillel Cohen, a student at Orach Chaim, said no students have yet been drafted, but that “if there’s a war they’ll be forced to go.” Cohen described the atmosphere in the yeshiva among the potential inductees as “tense” and “uncertain.”
Meir Pavlovsky, a 29-year-old student, said only those who had served in the military in the past would be drafted. Pavlovsky, along with multiple others, had enlisted for two years before becoming observant.
“There’s no way you can be religious in the Ukrainian army,” he said. The army does not offer kosher food, the cleaning day at the base is on Shabbat, and recruits must be closely shaven at all times, he explained.
Should the students be called up to serve, they will immediately move to Israel, Pavlovsky maintained. “It’s the only option. The important thing is that the Jews manage to leave before the gates close.”
Cohen, on the other hand, said some of the students were considering running to Russia to avoid enlistment.
“The situation in Ukraine is very delicate because of the situation against Russia,” said Rabbi Moshe Reuven Azman, a chief rabbi of Ukraine. “A few yeshiva students received draft notices.” The rabbi refused to comment on whether the students would report should they be called up.
The Jewish Agency said on February 22 it would provide emergency assistance to Jews in Ukraine, in light of the political unrest wracking the country.
Jewish Agency chief Natan Sharansky said his organization would help secure Jewish institutions in the Eastern European country and launch a fundraiser to help increase security.
“Recent events have shown that we must strengthen these institutions’ security measures. We have a moral responsibility to ensure the safety and security of Ukraine’s Jews,” said Sharansky.
According to the Joint Distribution Committee, Ukraine is home to an estimated 350,000-500,000 Jews.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.