Jewish Agency in Russia is Secretly Planning to Move its Office to Israel

The closure of the Jewish Agency’s offices in Russia will have a serious impact on Israel-Russia relations, Prime Minister Yair Lapid warned on Sunday.

“Relations with Russia are important to Israel,” Lapid said, but added that “the Jewish community in Russia is large and important and comes up in every diplomatic discussion with the government in Moscow.”q

Lapid’s remarks came after the Russian Justice Ministry took action against the Jewish Agency, claiming that it is illegally gathering information about Russian citizens, and the Israeli organization, which coordinates efforts for Jews around the world to move to Israel, among other activities, has taken steps to move its Russian operations to Israel and online.

Lapid held a meeting on Sunday with Immigration and Absorption Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata, Housing and Construction Minister Ze’ev Elkin, who has served as the past two prime ministers’ translators in meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and senior officials in the Prime Minister’s Office, Foreign Ministry and National Security Council, as well as from the Jewish Agency.

Following up on a plan announced last week to send a legal delegation for talks about the matter, Lapid instructed members to be ready to fly to Russia immediately upon authorization from Moscow. He told them to make every effort to exhaust the legal dialogue and high-level diplomatic talks to allow the Jewish Agency to once again help Russian Jews.

Why is The Jewish Agency moving from Russia?

The decision to move the Jewish Agency follows the Russian Justice Ministry’s request on Thursday to shut down the agency’s activities in Russia. In the meantime, there will be a court discussion on the case this week, the Post learned Saturday. Until the move, the agency is trying to fight its case.

“The Jewish Agency employees are working on packing up, metaphorically, and re-evaluating their challenges and work,” said a source close to the agency.

The understanding is that there is no solution for the complicated legal situation in Russia, and therefore there is a need to create a system that will enable long-distance aliyah applications.

Even though the aliyah process is able to move to an online platform, it won’t be convenient for the elderly, because face-to-face connections will no longer exist.

A source in the agency explained that without the ability to promote aliyah in Russia, the immigration rates will drop dramatically in the coming years.

The agency has just a few Israeli shlichim (emissaries) in Russia and about 100 local employees. It is unclear if there will be a solution for these employees if it is forced to close its operations there.

A joint delegation from the Prime Minister’s Office and the Foreign, Justice and Aliyah and Integration ministries will be sent to Russia to ensure that the Jewish Agency can continue its operations, Prime Minister Yair Lapid said on Thursday. Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai will also be participating in the meeting.

Members of the delegation will mainly be legal advisers from the different ministries.

Even though these legal experts do not have a full understanding of the Russian justice system, they intend to show Moscow that the Israeli government is “serious” about its intentions to solve the issue, a government source said.

Russian aliyah

About 30,000 Russian citizens have applied for aliyah since Moscow invaded Ukraine in late February. In addition, about 5,000 Russians have been approved to make aliyah.

However, the immigration rate from Russia to Israel is lower than what it would be since there are barely any flights between the two countries. Most airlines from Western countries have stopped flying to Russia bcause of international sanctions imposed after its invasion of Ukraine.

According to sources in the agency, about 1,000 people arrive daily at the agency’s different offices across Russia with the intention of making aliyah, but not all of them qualify.

The agency responded on Thursday to reports on the demand for liquidation of the organization in Russia. “The information you have is inaccurate,” spokeswoman Hagit Halali said.

“A preliminary hearing has been scheduled for next Thursday on the matter, and this is the continuation of the legal proceedings. As we have said so far, we will not respond during the legal process.”


Arab Observer

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