Israeli’s Russian wife and son denied entry at airport as family flees Russian draft

Border authorities at Ben Gurion Airport put David Eventov’s wife, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, and son on a plane to Turkey; ‘Nobody saw her as a person,’ he says

Travelers at Ben Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv, on September 7, 2022. (Arie Leib Abrams/Flash90)
Illustrative: Travelers at Ben Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv, on September 7, 2022. (Arie Leib Abrams/Flash90)

Authorities at Ben-Gurion Airport reportedly refused to allow an Israeli man’s Russian wife and the couple’s son into the country Sunday, turning them back as the family attempted to flee amid Moscow’s mass call-up of reservists to bolster its invasion of Ukraine.

David Eventov, 46, said a border guard raised issues over the family’s plans to settle in Israel, and authorities forced his wife, Yulia Eventova, 49, and son, Benjamin Eventov, 13, onto a plane back to Turkey, without offering an explanation or allowing them to argue their case. Adding to the family’s woes, a wheelchair used by Eventova, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, was left behind in Israel.

“Nobody would speak to us. They separated us, put them on a plane and that was it,” Eventov told the Haaretz daily. “I couldn’t explain anything to anyone. Nobody saw [Yulia] as a person.”

When Eventov sought to join his family in Turkey, he struggled to purchase a ticket for himself as his credit cards were not honored due to Western sanctions on Russian banks over the invasion of Ukraine.

He was eventually able to buy a ticket and reunited with his family in Turkey, where he discovered that his wife’s wheelchair was still in Tel Aviv.

According to Haaretz, the family decided to leave Russia several days ago, joining a mass exodus fleeing Russian President Vladimir Putin’s draft of reservists into the country’s war against Ukraine. The three went overland to Finland and from there flew to Israel via Turkey, arriving Sunday.

Some 6,500 people have fled to Israel from Russia in the last 10 days, the vast majority of them entering on tourist visas.

Eventov explained that though he doubted he would be called up for service in the army due to his age and health, his wife was still concerned and that was why they decided to promptly leave.

Eventov moved to Israel in 1994 as a teenager. He later returned to Russia, where he married Eventova. Their marriage is registered in Russia and Benjamin is listed as his son, according to the report. The report did not specify if Eventova is Jewish, which would have qualified her for automatic immigration under Israel’s right of return for Jews living abroad.

Eventov had begun applying for his wife and son to move to Israel several years ago, but the process was delayed by the coronavirus pandemic, which temporarily shut down many Israeli consular activities.

The family also visited Israel in 2019 as tourists and were granted entry. This time, however, Eventov told border inspectors at Ben Gurion Airport that they were coming back for good, at which point inspectors raised the immigration issues.

“I explained to her [the border clerk] that we had already submitted documents at the consulate, but it was delayed. I said that we had already rented an apartment and we just want to change status. I don’t need any money or assistance from the state… I’m just at a loss,” Eventov said. “I don’t understand what’s happening. It brings tears to my eyes.”

People entering Finland walk towards the waiting area after passing the passport control at the border checkpoint crossing in Vaalimaa, Finland, on the border with the Russian Federation on September 29, 2022. (Alessandro RAMPAZZO / AFP)

Eli Gervits, an attorney who specializes in citizenship and status law in Israel, told Haaretz that cases such as that of Eventovs can sometimes be caught in a bureaucratic quagmire. Since Eventov is an Israeli citizen who was living permanently abroad and was returning to Israel, his non-Israeli family would need a special non-tourist visa that grants entry for a three-month stay only.

Israel and Russia have a visa waiver program for tourists so the Israeli consulate in Russia has little experience in dealing with visa requests, Gervits explained. To bring his family to Israel, Eventov needed to first come to the country, visit the Interior Ministry, and request that it issue visas for his wife and son.

“Of course, in practice this is unrealistic, especially considering the long lines at the Interior Ministry and certainly in a state of war,” Gervits said.

He suggested that if state authorities were concerned about visitors from Russia staying in the country illegally beyond the allotted three months, they could have asked Eventov to post a bond to be returned to him when he begins the immigration process for his family or if they leave before the deadline.

On Sunday, government officials approved an “express” program allowing immigrants fleeing from Russia or Ukraine to undergo an eligibility check once they have arrived in Israel and not beforehand, as has been required. It was not clear if the policy was to go into effect immediately, or if it would have been communicated to border authorities before the Eventovs arrived.

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