Photo Credit: Yishai Fleisher

 

While Kiev seems like a fun, modern city, there is a darker side lurking underneath the capital of Ukraine. In the 2012 parliamentary elections, the All-Ukrainian Union “Svoboda”, translated as “Freedom Party”, garnered 10.44% of the popular vote – this transposed into 37 parliamentary seats. Many international sources have accused Svoboda of harboring strong Nazi elements in its politics. In 2004 Oleh Tyahnybok, the party leader, spoke of the “the Moscow-Jewish mafia which today runs Ukraine.”
This sounds a lot like the words of Ukrainian national hero Bohdan Khmelnysky who led the Cossacks in a murderous rampage against Jews, killing tens of thousands in the years 1648-1649. Khmelnysky told people that the Poles had sold them as slaves “into the hands of the accursed Jews.”

 

This was one of the most amazing and ironic sights I have ever seen. The picture here only shows one poster in this metro stop, but really the whole station was covered with posters of Israel with words like: “Eilat” “Dead Sea” and this poster: “Jerusalem”. Is it possible that only 70 years after Babi Yar Ukranians pass by ads for Jerusalem and hope to save enough money up to visit the Jewish State?
The no-visa regime, that is, the ability to travel between Ukraine and Israel with no need for a visa, certainly makes the 3 hour flight more attractive for people flying either way. Feldman and the Ukrainian Jewish Committee claim the no-visa regime as one of their great policy successes.
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On my first day in Kiev, I was in need of a prayer minyan and kosher food and I was directed to Kiev’s Central Synagogue, also knows as the Brodsky Shul, because it was built in 1898 by eminent Kyiv philanthropist Lazar Brodsky. The striking architectural monument served as a Jewish religious center for nearly thirty years until it was seized by the Soviet Union in 1926. For a short time it hosted a handicraft club, after which it was turned into a doll theater. During the Nazi occupation, Germans used the synagogue as a stable for Wermacht horses. The building was returned to the Jewish community after the fall of the Soviet Union.
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Yishai Fleisher is a Contributing Editor at JewishPress.com, Chief Editor at JNi.media, talk-show host, and International Spokesman for the Jewish community of Hebron, an Israeli Paratrooper, a graduate of Cardozo Law School, and the founder of Kumah ("Arise" in Hebrew), an NGO dedicated to promoting Zionism and strengthening Israel's national character. Yishai is married to Malkah, and they live on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem with their children.

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