More than 15,000 Ukrainians have immigrated to Israel since the outbreak of war in Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022, according to figures released by The Jewish Agency for Israel and the Ministry of Aliyah and Integration.
These olim have included many young people who enrolled in special absorption programs, mothers with young children, and senior citizens, as well as hundreds of Holocaust survivors.
The olim arrived in Israel with the help of The Jewish Agency, which worked in cooperation with the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ), and established emergency Aliyah (immigration to Israel) centers in countries bordering Ukraine immediately once hostilities broke out. At these centers, the refugees enjoyed a safe haven until they arrived in Israel.
The Jewish Agency for Israel Chairman, Maj. Gen (res) Doron Almog said “this is one of the largest rescue operations in history. The Jewish Agency did the unbelievable in the face of a global crisis.”
Once they landed in the Jewish state, the Ukrainian olim were placed in hotels across the country as part of the Israeli government’s “Operation Coming Home,” which was led by the Ministry of Aliyah and Integration.
World Jewry, led by The Jewish Federations of North America and Keren Hayesod, immediately came to the support of the Ukrainian community – along with help from Christian Friends of Israel. Tens of millions of dollars were raised in an unprecedented effort to assist the rescue-and-immigration process.
The multi-pronged efforts initiated by The Jewish Agency to help the Jews of Ukraine after the outbreak of the war were unprecedented in their scope. Within 24 hours, The Jewish Agency, with the assistance of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, set up 18 emergency response centers in Ukraine and its neighboring countries of Poland, Moldova, Hungary, and Romania to assist the massive wave of refugees.
A total of 450 staff and volunteers worked at these centers and ensured each refugee had a place to stay as well as emotional support and medical care; 290,000 meals were distributed at these centers and thousands were evacuated to Israel on rescue flights.
Emergency hotlines and command centers were opened and operated around the clock to aid in locating and rescuing the wounded, elderly, and Holocaust survivors. In addition to the Aliyah assistance, Jewish communities within Ukraine received emergency relief, including over 400 tons of humanitarian equipment collected throughout Israel that were distributed to the general refugee population.
“When the war broke out in Ukraine, I traveled as a Member of Knesset to the refugee centers in Moldova to observe the Aliyah process of those who fled the conflict zones first-hand. As the Minister of Aliyah and Integration, I saw the importance of welcoming the olim upon their arrival in Israel and assisting in their integration into Israeli society,” said Ofir Sofer, Minister of Aliyah and Integration. “Massive Aliyah, like we had last year with 75,000 olim arriving in Israel, is a great opportunity or a catastrophic crisis. If we don’t increase the budget to accommodate the olim in the best possible way, it will be a catastrophe. As soon as I took office, I was required to deal with the issue of the ulpanim, and after much effort, I managed to obtain a budget for thousands of vouchers to study the Hebrew language. For me, the Hebrew language is the key to the successful integration of olim.”
The Jewish Agency is running seminars for professionals and leaders in Ukrainian Jewish communities to provide them with the necessary tools to grapple with emergencies as part of JReady, the organization’s global emergency response and preparedness initiative.
The Jewish Agency continues to assist Jews who are looking to make Aliyah and, as such, is providing educational activities for local communities both remotely and through in-person seminars for young people held in Ukraine’s neighboring countries. Support has also been ongoing for Ukrainian refugees who remained in neighboring countries, including connecting them with local Jewish communities and providing assistance to those who wish to make Aliyah.