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Russian Jews turn to Israel as Kremlin targets migrant groups

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TEL AVIV — 2 Hours after Russia invaded Ukraine in January, Ilya Fomintsev, a 43-year-old oncologist and head of a medical charity, took to the streets of Moscow to protest. He was arrested and sentenced to 20 days detention.

Like many others opposed to a "special military operation" in Ukraine, Fomintsev feared for his future and decided to leave his country.

But when other dissident Russians headed for Turkey, Georgia, and Armenia, Fomintsev, on the advice of an elderly patient, collected documents proving his Jewish ancestry. First, I made an appointment with the Israeli Consulate.

"I am of Jewish origin and my only option to emigrate was Israel," Fomintsev said in an interview at his new home in Tel Aviv.

} "In other countries, by and large, it is impossible to legalize oneself, nor to open a bank account or do business there. Israel was the only option, so the repatriation program

Fomintsev was part of a new wave of Jewish immigration from Russia, not as large as the previous pre-revolutionary and post-Soviet exodus, but tens of thousands of 20,246 Russians entered the Jewish state.

According to Israeli government statistics, between January and July 2022, 20,246 jumped from about 700 per month in February to more than 3,000 in March. In contrast, only 15,930 Russians emigrated to Israel in 2019.

Most Russian immigrants are Jewish, but some have only Jewish relatives. Under Israel's Law of Return, at least one of her Jewish grandparents is required for immediate citizenship. About 600,000 Russians are eligible.

The scale of the immigration appears to have taken Russian officials by surprise and may have prompted reprisals by the Kremlin. called for the liquidation of the Moscow branch of the Israel Jewish Agency, a non-profit organization that assists foreign Jews wishing to emigrate to Israel. The first court hearing is scheduled for Friday at Moscow's Basmani Regional Court, which often deals with politically sensitive cases.

The Agency said its activities to serve the Jewish community in Russia will continue to ensure that they thrive and remain connected to their heritage.

Although the lawsuit against the Jewish Agency is formally linked to violations of Russia's data protection laws, Israel's Minister for Diaspora Affairs Nahman Shai said in July that Russia had He accused them of trying to punish Israel for its position.

"Russian Jews will not be held hostage by the war in Ukraine. The Israeli Jewish Agency's attempt to punish the war stance is deplorable and offensive." said Shai.

Israel does not provide military assistance to Ukraine, but does provide humanitarian and diplomatic assistance to Kyiv. Russian immigration to Israel is likely to be more expensive without the generous financial support it provides to would-be Israelis.

Fomintsev In the case, the Jewish Agency paid for air tickets for him, his wife and three children.

When his designer, 33-year-old Konstantin Konovalov, left Moscow with his girlfriend and pet dog and arrived at Tel Aviv airport in April, his agency sent them to a new home. I arranged a taxi for

Konovalov said:

But according to Sophia Goldman, head of a Moscow consultancy that helps immigration to Israel, the lawsuit against the Jewish Agency has not weakened the interest in immigration, and that interest continues to rise. Instead, as the immigration stream continued, the types of demands she received changed.

"If earlier people who actually had some kind of good documentary base for obtaining citizenship applied to us, today they Call us more often with questions about confirming ancestry. They call in speculation: "I believe my grandmother, grandfather, and distant relatives had Jewish roots, Let's check it out.”

Some immigrants who end up in Israel experience culture shock at the reality of living abroad.

He studies Hebrew five hours a day and enjoys working in Israel's thriving startup sector. He said he was surprised at how well he was doing.

"If the day comes when something changes in Russia, I won't rule out the possibility of going back. Moscow is still very important to me and it's hard for me to leave my homeland." edited by Allison Williams)