Knesset Speaker Yuli-Yoel Edelstein and Director-General Ronen Plot held a video conference call on Tuesday with a number of Jewish community leaders from the Ukrainian city of Dnipropetrovsk.
Speaker Edelstein asked the Jewish leaders how they celebrated the Purim holiday amid the turmoil in the Eastern European country. Rabbi Meir Stembler replied: ”There is tension in the air, but there are no Jews who have gone into hiding or are concealing their Judaism. While there are expressions of anti-Semitism, there is no systematic anti-Semitism. Also, there is no increase in the sense of threat against the Jewish community in the aftermath of the revolution.”
Alina Tiplitzki of ”Beit Hanna,” a college dedicated to training women to become Jewish educators and a school for special-needs children, said that some 500 Purim gift baskets were handed out by the institution and that the preparations for Pesach have already begun. ”We were in touch with the Jewish community in the Crimean Peninsula, which numbers some 4,000 people,” she said. ”The situation there is good and they too are preparing for Pesach.”
Igor Shobag, who researches the Holocaust and anti-Semitism, said that among the rightist elements in Ukraine there are several forces with which the Jewish community can cooperate with. ”We`ve done so regularly in the past in order to develop Ukraine (as a country) without hatred for the foreigner and the Jews,” he told Speaker Edelstein and Director-General Plot.
Rabbi Stembler said Dnipropetrovsk`s Jews feel safe, but added that ”Israel can assist us with all of its security-related experience. The current situation is good, but it may deteriorate.” It is possible, the rabbi said during the video conference call, that Ukraine`s Jews may opt to leave the country and make aliyah.
”Many Jews took part in the protests. The fact that some of those who were injured during the protests were transferred to Israeli hospitals for treatment was publicized by the local news outlets and received recognition and sympathy,” he said.
Knesset Speaker Edelstein concluded the conference call by saying that he would continue to monitor the events in Ukraine. ”It is very important for us to be in direct contact with you,” Edelstein told the Jewish leaders. ”We will discuss your requests and I believe we will be able to assist as needed. I wish you and the entire Jewish community in Ukraine a happy Pesach holiday.”
The conference call was held in the Knesset`s new V.I.P. lounge. Director-General Plot said the video conference call feature ”will allow us to connect the Knesset more easily with other parliaments, interparliamentary organizations and friends of Israel around the world.”