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Reporter's notebook'They were in the same situation and they give no support'

At a Ukraine gun license sign-up, disappointment with Israel surfaces

Employee of Israeli start-up says colleagues show support, but country’s leaders have fallen far short

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

As Leopolitans sign up for gun licenses on March 2, 2022, Yuri, right, expresses disappointment in official Israeli positions. (Lazar Berman/The Times of Israel)
As Leopolitans sign up for gun licenses on March 2, 2022, Yuri, right, expresses disappointment in official Israeli positions. (Lazar Berman/The Times of Israel)

LVIV, Ukraine — It was late afternoon in Lviv, and the snowflakes dancing in the cold air lent a charming quality to the medieval Ukrainian city, as preparations for war were evident all around.

As I walked with my local translator Yustyna toward the Tsori Gilod synagogue, we came across a clear sign of those preparations.

A dozen men, from teenagers to retirees, congregated outside a stately gray building. They were being handed forms, then held them against the stone walls to fill them out.

They were registering for civilian gun licenses.

One man, an owner of a pneumatic tools company, said in English that he knows his way around guns to some extent. “I know how to use but I’d like to make more training,” he admitted.

He had recently moved his family to a part of Ukraine he felt was safe, then returned to Lviv. And he is willing to fight to protect the city if the Russians show up.

Passengers rush to board a train leaving to Slovakia from the Lviv railway station, in Lviv, west Ukraine, March 2, 2022. (AP/Felipe Dana)

“Yes I’m ready,” he stated. “I’m ready to defend.”

A younger man, Ivan, said he took part in a civilian firearms course in Lviv two months ago.

He, too is ready to risk his life should the need arise. “Of course, of course,” he said.

When I mentioned I was from Israel, one of the younger men waiting in line spoke up. “I work for an Israeli start-up,” he said.

He was dressed in a khaki jacket and a blue winter hat.

“They very much cared about us,” said the man, Yuri.

His Israeli colleagues sent him messages of support every day, Yuri said.

“They understand us, and they support us because it’s the same situation in their country,” he said.

Despite the encouragement from his Israeli co-workers, Yuri was deeply disappointed in Israel’s government, which has taken pains not to alienate Russia by backing Ukraine too stridently.

Though Israel voted to condemn Russia in the United Nations General Assembly Wednesday, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has avoided doing so himself. Even more frustrating for Ukraine, Israel has also blocked the sale of Israeli-made weaponry to Kyiv, including the Iron Dome missile defense system.

“Just support us,” Yuri pleaded. “Israel didn’t give any support to Ukraine right now. They were in the same situation and they give no support.”

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