Open letter from Olims of Russia

Open letter from Olims of Russia

2 мая 2022 г.
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Автор: Olims Russia

To social media, news outlets and the Ministry of Aliyah and Integration

These days the State of Israel is welcoming a great number of Olims from Ukraine, Russia and Belarus. This Aliyah is said to be the largest since 1992 and Israel has shown an amazing willingness to help new immigrants—both those coming from the war zone and those who wish to repatriate urgently from the neighbouring countries.

Thanks to this unprecedented support, for the last two months many of us have been going through the expedited Aliyah in Israel, and others are about to start. The new Olims received an opportunity to quickly pass the consular check in Israel instead of waiting for it in Russia for a year and a half. 

We are all extremely grateful for the flexibility and speed with which the State of Israel has responded to this unexpected new Aliyah. We also deeply appreciate the help, love and care coming from the volunteers, soldiers, and members of the community, who are taking pains to help us feel that we have indeed come home. It is truly incredible! 

What is happening now?

Although the new Aliya has been covered by many talented Israeli journalists, unfortunately, there are some newspaper articles superficially and, therefore, incorrectly representing the current state of affairs. In particular, in the article called “One-third of Russian Olims left Israel after one month with a new passport, cash” by Mr Zvika Klein in Jerusalem Post (April 28, 2022), the author states that all the Olims received great financial support including free flight tickets, a sum of money given at the airport, a free stay at one of the hotels, a transfer from the airport as well as a variety of benefits such as banking, social, and medical services, privileges that ordinary immigrants are not entitled to. The author further says that the minister “was shocked by the abandonment data” revealing that “when a third of those immigrants take advantage of the kindness of the State of Israel and left in order to continue living in Russia” despite such support.

In the discussion that followed the publication of the article, one of the Israeli participants in the discussion who immigrated many years ago, said:

– After the terrorist attacks in France, many religious and traditional families left for Israel but later returned to France. Mass media blamed the French Olims for going back and only one year later, the reasons explaining why they had left came up to the public view. The main reason was that they had poorly understood the system of religious education in Israel and could not send their children to suitable schools, so their concern for children’s education was the reason for leaving.

In the history of Israel, complaints about the misbehavior of the repatriates who end up leaving the country arise regularly in the media and politics in regard to any group. Only too late the citizens of Israel find out the truth about why these people have left. Unfortunately, only we ourselves can tell our real stories: where we are from and how we lived over there, why we came to Israel and what difficulties we faced. Nobody can do it for us.

What do Olims with Russian citizenship say about themselves?

We decided to write this letter to explain the situations in which the repatriates from Russia have found themselves. Here is what Russian Olims say.

What's wrong with the accusations in the article?

– I want to clarify that only those who have passed the full consular check in Russia and arrive via HaSochnut receive a free flight ticket and some money in the airport. The rest qualify for financial assistance only after receiving their Teudat Oleh in Israel.

– We travelled to Israel on our own. Even the representatives of the Jewish Agency for Israel (HaSochnut) in Russia were not aware of this new option of expedite Aliyah until the 11th of April when the “Go-no go” process started. As such, they were not in the position to provide any related assistance, much less offer any flight tickets.

– We are a family with three children. We don’t complain, but to be honest, this cancellation hits us very hard. Extremely hard. We are arriving in early May.

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Why do some of the Olims leave Israel?

– Many of us are in a very difficult situation. We covered our flight tickets and transfers out of pocket; it was important as we wanted to be accepted as citizens of Israel and make sure that all documents are properly done. But then we also need to sell the car, get rid of the mortgage, and close down the business. But the article used such a demeaning tone ... about "free planes, money at the airport, a hotel for a month with three meals a day ..." If I was one of the Israelis reading the article, I would also doubt the motives and would support the cancellation of the assistance for Russian Olims, assistance that is so vital for us, in fact.

– It seems to me that it would help if the new Olims told the media why some of their family members left. For example, to pick up their cat, close a business, collect their academic transcripts, and so on. It is important that they clarify that these people will come back to Israel after taking care of things.

— We will have an accurate picture in regard to the intentions of those who left Israel only in several months or in a year when it becomes clear how many of them have indeed returned.

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What challenges do Russian Olims face if they repatriate from countries other than Russia?

– We left Russia as soon as the war started out of concern for our safety. We came to Armenia, but the rent prices have gone up significantly here due to the high number of people escaping Russia. There are tens of thousands of people like us here. So, we have been burning through our savings while working on preparing our documents for Aliyah. And now it will be very difficult for us to complete the repatriation process in Israel without the free hotels promised by the Minister of Aliyah and Absorption in March 

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What do the repatriates from Russia ask for in the current situation? 

Realizing how difficult and expensive it is to organize hotels and not comparing our situation with the grief and desperate situation of repatriates from Ukraine, on behalf of repatriates from Russia, we ask the State of Israel to extend the terms and procedure for emergency repatriation with an initial express check of documents online and related benefits for the collection and verification of documents.   

Perhaps it might possible to develop a process to help direct and allocate new arrivals to the locations where help with the repatriation process is available. It would also help to know which official to contact, how the verification process is structured and so on.  

The reason we ask for this support is that at the moment we do not understand what steps we have to take now that the sudden changes to the expedite process are announced. This especially concerns those repatriates who have purchased tickets and are arriving in May.  

We also ask to provide social housing which, unlike accommodations at commercial prices, will allow urgently repatriated people with their families to wait for the consular verification without exhausting all their resources, if possible.  

This housing is needed by those who arrive in May and in the summer months as, due to the holiday season, it's very difficult to find housing at adequate prices and new Olims from Russia are facing a serious challenge. 

We also believe that the repatriates from Belarus need the same support, being in a similar situation.   

We would like to express our sincere gratitude for the opportunity that the State of Israel has given all the Jews of Russia and those who wish to repatriate under the Law of Return by creating this “expedite Aliyah”. We thank you with all our hearts and souls for your kind help and support! And we will be happy with any solution that will keep us along with our families safe and away from staying on the streets while we are finding accommodations in the country.


Olims of Russia

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