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Israeli Cabinet approves rent relief for Ukrainian refugees – but ironically, Russian aliyah is topping the charts

According to a report, more than half of recent immigrants are from Russia, not Ukraine

Jewish immigrants from Ukraine arrive at the Israeli immigration and absorption office, at Ben-Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv, March 15, 2022. (Photo: Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

The Israeli Cabinet approved emergency rental assistance to Ukrainian immigrants who were forced to escape their war-torn country and make their way to safety. 

“We are committed to every Jew who wants to come and build his life in Israel, at any time,” Housing Minister Ze’ev Elkin said. “Now much more so, when their lives are in danger.”

The approval of the assistance comes as the government expects tens of thousands of immigrants from Ukraine, Russia and Belarus due to Russia’s war on Ukraine, which began with the Russian invasion on Feb. 24. 

Israel expects a total of approximately between 30,000 and 50,000 immigrants from Ukraine and Russia by the end of June, according to Minister of Absorption and Immigration Pnina Tamano-Shata. 

“Most of the immigrants are fleeing war in Ukraine and arriving after a difficult journey, forced to leave behind all their property and money,” she said. “We as a government are committed to helping them and making it as easy as possible for them.”

However, according to figures obtained by Haaretz, more than 50% of recent immigrants to Israel are arriving from Russia, rather than from Ukraine. In addition, immigration from Ukraine has begun drastically to drop.

“Internal government figures obtained by Haaretz show that the number of immigrants and potential immigrants landing in Israel from Russia in the past two months far exceeds the number of immigrants and potential immigrants from Ukraine,” Haaretz wrote

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began and until early April, a total of 8,371 immigrants and potential immigrants from Ukraine landed in Israel. Of them, 3,621 were already approved for aliyah (immigration to Israel) before they arrived and another 4,750 received special permission indicating that they will be able to complete their aliyah process upon arriving in Israel.

By comparison, a total of 12,593 immigrants and potential immigrants from Russia have arrived in Israel since the beginning of the war, with 2,450 already approved for aliyah and another 10,143 arriving on tourist visas. This is a large increase when compared to last year, when only 7,700 Russians made aliyah over the course of the whole year.

The International Fellowship for Christians and Jews (IFCJ), which has been assisting Jews fleeing Ukraine, has seen a dramatic drop in the number of Ukrainian Jews heading to Israel.

“In the past seven to 10 days, we have witnessed a drastic drop in the number of Jewish refugees crossing the border here in Moldova – from hundreds a day to a trickle of 20 to 30,” said Benny Hadad, head of aliyah operations at IFCJ. 

The number of refugee flights that IFCJ had been operating is just two a week now and possibly only one in the coming weeks compared to six a week when the war broke out. Hadad believes that Jews who wanted to leave Ukraine have already done so. 

In a new report, the Jewish agency examined what is preventing all of the 200,000 Ukrainian Jews eligible for aliyah under the Law of Return from exercising their right to immigrate to Israel. 

“In many cases, it still appears that the disadvantages [of aliyah] outweigh the advantages and that most of those who would potentially make aliyah have already done so or are in the process of it,” the report concluded. 

“Those who have been predicting an aliyah of hundreds of thousands will definitely have to give some explanations,” said Yigal Palmor, head of international relations at the Jewish Agency.

Meanwhile, the housing relief approved by the Cabinet will help refugees who had to flee and leave everything behind. Individuals will receive the equivalent of $715 per month for a year while couples with up to two children will receive $900 and families with three or more children will receive $1,050. Ukrainian refugees who are not eligible for Israeli citizenship will not be entitled to assistance. 

The average cost of an apartment rental in Israel ranges from $1,000 to $2,000 a month depending on location and number of rooms.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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