Israel urged to send forces to guard Ukrainian Jews

Rabbi asks Netanyahu for urgent protection against a ‘growing wave of anti-Semitic attacks’

Illustrative photo of Jewish men inside a synagogue in Kiev (Mendy Hechtman/Flash90)
Illustrative photo of Jewish men inside a synagogue in Kiev (Mendy Hechtman/Flash90)

The head of a prominent European Jewish group requested Tuesday that the Israeli government urgently send security personnel to Ukraine in order to protect the Jewish communities there, which have been targeted during the political unrest gripping the country.

In a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, the head of the European Jewish Association, Rabbi Menahem Margolin, urgently requested that Israel “send trained security guards to protect Jewish communities in Ukrainian cities and towns.”

Ukrainian Jewish communities throughout the country are seriously concerned and feel helpless in the face of a “growing wave of anti-Semitic attacks,” the letter stated, citing the recent examples of a Molotov cocktail thrown at a Chabad center in the eastern city of Zaporozhye, a threatening phone message left for a rabbi in Kryvyi Rih calling for him to leave the city, and anti-Semitic graffiti found in Kiev and other locations.

The reports indicate a “Jewish emergency,” according to the letter sent by the Brussels-based EJA head.

The recent Israeli Air Force fly-by over Auschwitz “conveyed a clear message that Israel will ensure the safety of Jews around the world, even in foreign countries,” the rabbi wrote, so “I urge you to take every possible measure, including the dispatch of security guards, to insure the safety of Jewish communities in Ukraine.”

Ukraine was gripped by intense violence and demonstrations last week as pro-European Union and pro-Russian demonstrators clashed in the streets, leading to an overthrow of the government and the release of former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko from prison.

During the crisis, various Jewish groups have tried to aid Ukraine’s Jewish population, which is estimated at between 350-400,000. The JDC sent a delegation to help elderly Jews affected by the turmoil, and, earlier this week, Jewish Agency head Natan Sharansky announced that the agency would raise funds to increase security at Jewish institutions.

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