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November 25, 2015 / 13 Kislev, 5776
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Posts Tagged ‘Ukraine’

Western Leaders Head to Ukraine to Try for Peace with Russia

Thursday, February 5th, 2015

US Secretary of State John Kerry, French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel all intend to try and make peace between Ukraine and Russia this week.

Kerry is already in Ukraine to show America’s support for the Kiev government.

Hollande told international media Thursday in Paris that he and Merkel would head first to Kiev and then to Moscow on Friday to present Russian President Vladimir Putin with a proposal “based on the territorial integrity of Ukraine.”

NATO, meanwhile, is unveiling details of a plan to bolster its military presence in eastern Europe in response to the Ukraine crisis, according to the BBC. NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg told the news service it will be the biggest reinforcement of its collective defense since the end of the Cold War, centering on a “spearhead” force of up to 5,000 troops with lead units able to deploy within two days. A network of command centers is being established in Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, Romania and Bulgaria, Stoltenberg said, in response to “the aggressive actions we have seen from Russia, violating international law and annexing Crimea.”

The French president described the months-long conflict with pro-Russia rebels that wreaked havoc in Ukraine as a full-fledged war. “Ukraine is at war. Heavy weapons are being used and civilians are being killed daily,” Hollande said.

Kerry told the BBC in Kiev that the U.S. wants to see a diplomatic solution to the conflict, but will not close its eyes to Russian aggression.

“We want a diplomatic resolution but we cannot close our eyes to tanks that are crossing the border from Russia and coming into Ukraine,” Kerry said at a joint news conference with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.

More than 5,000 people have died in the fighting between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian rebel troops, some of which include Russian “volunteers,” since April 2014. The eastern Ukraine cities of Donetsk and Lugansk are both under rebel control.

Dead, Wounded as Donetsk Hospital Shelled in Eastern Ukraine

Wednesday, February 4th, 2015

At least four people are dead according to the International Business Times and numerous others wounded after a hospital in the rebel-controlled city of Donetsk was shelled today in eastern Ukraine.

“There are multiple casualties at the hospital. A preliminary count says more than 15 people were killed,” local emergency services told the Interfax news agency.

In a statement on its website, the city administration confirmed there had been an attack on the hospital, saying “there was an artillery shell at 12 noon… the shell hit a hospital, there are dead and wounded.”

A correspondent for the Russia-based RT news service reported from the scene that rockets hit the hospital and an apartment building next door.

Nearby schools also were damaged in the blast, city officials said, which comes as European Union policy chief Federica Mogherini called for an immediate ceasefire to allow civilians to leave the conflict zone.

Last week scores of people were killed, including children, after pro-Russian separatists fired Grad missiles at a residential neighborhood in the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, still held by Kiev government forces.

Mortar fire and rocket fire is regularly aimed at residential areas in the two main rebel-held cities of Donetsk and Lugansk. Separatists who want to secede from Ukraine blame the Kiev government for the attacks.

A truce that had been arranged several months ago between rebel forces and Kiev collapsed in January.

“The OSCE monitors should investigate the site of the attack, determine the direction and the location from which the barrage was fired and report their findings,” said Andrey Purgin, spokesperson for the self-proclaimed Donetsk Peoples’ Republic.

According to the most recent estimate by the United Nations, at least 5,358 people have died in the revolt by pro-Russian Ukrainians.

Jews Struggling to Survive as Fighting Intensifies in Eastern Ukraine

Thursday, January 22nd, 2015

In eastern Ukraine, Jews are scrambling to survive as fighting intensifies between Russian-backed rebels and the Ukraine army.

At least nine people were killed this morning (Jan. 22) when a civilian bus was shelled in the city of Donetsk, capital of the province bearing the same name. The Ukraine defense ministry told the BBC that its troops have retreated from the main terminal of Donetsk airport, which is not in use. The facility still has symbolic value for both sides, however, and the army’s loss of the terminal is a major victory for the rebels.

More than 4,800 have died and some 1.2 million are homeless since the rebels seized control last April over parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. The move followed Russia’s annexation of Crimea in March, a peninsula which belonged to Ukraine.

In the Lugansk (also called “Luhansk”) Jewish community, things have remained relatively quiet, according to local Jewish sources who asked for anonymity. But one can hear the sounds of war not far away, and a family can lose all its food if the house is left alone for more than a day.

Hungry neighbors feel no shame in foraging for anything they can find – anywhere – even in the homes of others.

Trains no longer go into Lugansk, a community member explains, and “the connection with Ukraine is growing dimmer by the day.”

For the Jews in the city, a major lifeline of support has been thrown by the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, headed by Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein. The organization funds Chabad-run refugee camps in the region, and sends thousands of care packages to needy Jewish families in the battered Donbass region. Likewise, Ohr Avner and the Rohr Family Foundation have been continued pillars of support essential to helping the Jews of eastern Ukraine survive.

Some Jews from the region have managed to reach Israel via aliyah already, but many still remain in Ukraine. Those who have chosen to escape the horror — even if it means moving to a strange new land and learning a new language — at least have a familiar face to greet them: exiled Chabad-Lubavitch emissary to Lugansk, Rabbi Sholom Gopin and his wife Chana are in Israel too.

The Gopins were forced to move temporarily to Kfar Chabad due to the intense fighting in the region. Gopin told Chabad.org recently that he makes the three and a half hour flight back and forth to Ukraine often in order to visit community members and ensure that help gets through to those still living in Lugansk.

In Donetsk, not so far from Lugansk, the Jewish community is also struggling but has seen more violence. Last September, just before Rosh HaShanah, the community lost one of its prominent members to rebel banditry.

Garik Zylberbord, 47, was shot to death while trying to stop pro-Russian rebels from robbing his neighbor’s home. Zylberbord was a community leader and a long-time friend of the exiled chief rabbi and co-director of Chabad-Lubavitch of Donetsk, Rabbi Pinchas Vishedski.

Having made plans to meet the rabbi in a few days in Kiev where Vishedski had been forced to flee with his family just two weeks prior, Zylberbord appeared earlier than planned, the rabbi noted sorrowfully: to attend his own funeral.

Vishedski and his wife Dina have set up a Donetsk Jewish community office in Kiev to help the lost and struggling Jews of his city who found refuge there and in other parts of Ukraine. “Calls start at the crack of dawn and don’t stop the entire day,” said Vishedski, “not only from poor families but now also from regular, middle-class people who also have no money or food right now.”

Exodus from France Leads Aliyah to 10-Year High

Wednesday, December 31st, 2014

Immigration to Israel hit a 10-year high in 2014  with the arrival of approximately  26,500 new immigrants, 32 percent higher than last year’s 20,000 new “olim.”

France for the first time topped the list of countries of origin for immigrants,  with nearly  7,000 Jews moving to Israel in 2014, double the 3,400 who came last year.

The other unusual rate of aliyah was from the Ukraine, from where 5,820 Jews moved to Israel, nearly three times the 2,020 who made aliyah in the previous year.

Jewish Agency Natan Sharansky chairman said, “2014 was a year of record-breaking Aliyah. This year also saw a historic shift: for the first time in Israel’s history, the number of immigrants who came to Israel from the free world is greater than that of immigrants fleeing countries in distress.

“This trend is evidence of Israel’s attractiveness as a place where it’s good to live, as well as of the success of our joint efforts to promote aliyah and strengthen connections between Jews around the world and the State of Israel.”

Minister of Aliyah and Immigrant Absorption Sofa Landver said that she expects that another 10,000 new immigrants will come from France in 2014.

Uman Jews Fined $15K for Breslov Pilgrims’ Tent City

Sunday, September 28th, 2014

The city of Uman has fined its Jewish community $15,000 for the erecting an unlicensed tent city to greet pilgrims to the gravesite of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov for the Rosh HaShana holiday.

The sum was reached as a compromise with “quality of government” activists pushing to dismantle the tents, and city officials, by the Rabbi Nachman International Charitable Foundation.

“There were legal issues with a tent city for 2,500 people, which we operate on Rosh HaShana,” Rabbi Shimon Buskila of the World Breslov Center told JTA on Wednesday prior to the holiday.

Buskila oversees operations related to the annual pilgrimage and the permanent Jewish presence in Uman.

The Ukrainian city of Uman is still the focal point for the Breslov Chassidic group whose founder, Rebbe Nachman, died in 1810.

This year a record number of more than 30,000 of the Rebbe’s Chassidim from 25 different countries flocked to his tomb for the holiday despite the difficult situation in eastern Ukraine.

Boryspil International Airport was tasked with handling over 20,000 Hasidic Jews from all over the world, using 236 special flights, according to the International Business Times, which quoted airport statistics to reveal that most came from the U.S. and Israel.

Chabad Rabbi Remains with Trapped Jews as Ukraine Troops, Rebels, and Russians Fight for Mariupol

Thursday, August 28th, 2014

Jews in Mariupol, Ukraine are caught between the proverbial ‘rock and a hard place’ with nowhere to run as the winds of war whirl into their community. Chabad-Lubavitch emissary and rabbi of the city, Rabbi Mendel Cohen, has remained to serve his brethren in what has become one of the greatest challenges of his life.

Pro-Russian separatists, Russian tanks and Ukraine forces are all rapidly converging on the key southeastern port city to fight for control.

The nearby town of Novoazovsk reportedly has fallen to the rebels over the past 24 hours, according to a report by the BBC which quoted Russian TV. The Ukraine government told media that Russian forces have crossed the border in support of the rebel advance — a charge denied by Moscow.

The besieged cities of Donetsk and Luhansk, further north, have been embattled for months. The self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), where the city of the same name is located, has attempted to secede from Ukraine. DPR Prime Minister Alexander Zakharchenko told Russian TV there were up to 4,000 Russian citizens within the ranks of the separatist rebel army, “former high-ranking military officers who have volunteered to join us. They are fighting with us, considering that to be their duty.

“There are also many in the current Russian military that prefer to spend their leave among us, brothers who are fighting for their freedom, rather than on a beach.”

“People are very worried right now,” Rabbi Cohen told Chabad.org. “There are lines at all of the gas stations and ATMs and people are stocking up on food, so there is nothing left in the stores. We don’t know what’s going to happen.”

Mariupol, the second-largest city in Donetsk, is only 35 miles from the Russian border and Russian is the primary language. In February, pro-Russian separatists seized the city’s administrative buildings and maintained control over the city for months.

Kiev sent troops and battled for control over the city in a fierce fight that ended at the city’s police station. At least six were killed in the offensive and it took until June 13 before the Ukraine government forces managed to secure total control over the city.

Rabbi Cohen described “armed men with masks right next to the shul,” saying it was “dangerous to walk around in the street” until June. Since then, however, “thank God it has become more stable.”

The sense of unease has returned, however.

Over the past month, more than 330,000 people have been displaced by combat in Donetsk to the north, and Lugansk to the east. Some 2,000 people have been killed so far, according to some estimates.

Many refugees have ended up in Mariupol. This week the sounds of shelling are much closer. Mariupol’s Jews so far insist on staying, fearing the dangers on the road to freedom more than the uncertainties facing them in their own homes. The Chabad emissary says he will stay as long as he can to aid the community.

“We have a minyan three times a day and Torah classes. Our day camp just ended, and we are now preparing for the school year,” Cohen said. The Jewish community has also worked to supply food packages to a growing number of people who need them.

Out of four emissaries serving southeastern Ukraine, Rabbi Cohen is the only one left. Three others were forced to re-evaluate their situations, along with the Jews of Donetsk, Lugansk and Maakeevka.

‘I hope and pray they will be able to return to their work very soon,” Rabbi Cohen said.

Report: Armed Men Threatened to Burn Down Ukrainian Rabbi’s Home

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014

(JTA) — Armed, masked men threatened to burn down the house of one of Ukraine’s chief rabbis, a spokeswoman from his office said.

The incident outside the Kiev-area residence of Rabbi Yaakov Dov Bleich occurred on May 23 at 1:30 a.m., Inna Yoffe, the executive director of the Jewish Confederation of Ukraine, told Ukrainian media last week.

Bleich, the confederation’s president, was not in the country at the time of the attack, which ended without serious injury, Yoffe told the television channel 112 Ukraine two days after the reported attack.

“There was an attack on a paramilitary guard outside the fence in front of the house,” she said. “The attackers were wearing masks and camouflage uniforms with machine guns; they arrived by an SUV.”

Yoffe said the attackers forced the guard to lie face down on the ground and told him they would kill him and burn down the house. She did not say how many men threatened the guard.

The men fled the scene after another guard from inside the residence called the police, Yoffe added. The Jewish Confederation of Ukraine filed a complaint with police over the assault.

Contacted by JTA, Bleich said the men who showed up outside his home did not target him specifically. According to his understanding, the rabbi said, the attack was not anti-Semitic.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/report-armed-men-threatened-to-burn-down-ukrainian-rabbis-home/2014/06/03/

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