Israel's Georgians rally for 'homeland'

By HILARY LEILA KRIEGER
October 5, 2006 02:51
2 minute read.

Russia might be choking off Georgian air routes and postal deliveries, but Israelis from the former Soviet republic are keeping an open line to friends and family members caught in the latest flare-up between the two states. Reuven Enoch of Jerusalem calls his son Eli, who works in Tblisi, every day to find out how he's doing. "I worry about what's happening to my son," he said, adding that Eli at least has Israeli citizenship and can move back here. "Mainly I worry about what happens to the country." Many people like Enoch continue to refer to Georgia as their "homeland" years after immigrating to Israel and anxiously watched developments this week as Russia took steps against the pro-Western administration of President Mikhail Saakashvili following Georgia's jailing and release of alleged Russian spies. Eli Enoch, for his part, said he experienced "anxiety, and you're furious that Russia has so much power." While he said he was "concerned" by the sanctions, he thought it was too early to say whether they would have a serious impact. Enoch, who works in the banking sector, said foreign investors might be scared off, but that Western countries might aid Georgia and even the balance. He added that he wasn't worried about armed confrontation any time in the near future because neither side had much to gain from military conflict - Georgia would lack adequate fire power and Russia would be harmed in the eyes of the international community. His father agreed that violence seemed unlikely, and he maintained that sanctions would backfire. "It really makes things difficult in the short term, but in the long term it won't work," he said. Georgia's ambassador to Israel, Lasha Zhvania, also said Russia's tactics wouldn't succeed. "It's a bit problematic, but we've had much harder days with Russia." Officials from the Russian Embassy in Tel Aviv could not be reached for comment. Zhvania said Western support for Georgia was key, and discussed Israel's role in the conflict. He also said it was difficult to identify another Georgian diaspora community like Israel's 100,000 citizens of Georgian descent who are "so patriotic, so unified, so love Georgia." Only some 8,000 Jews remain in Georgia, according to Zhvania. "Of course I feel myself to be an inseparable part of this country. What happens there really matters to me and it really worries me," said Lev Bardani, who made aliya from Georgia in 1973 and now lives in Ashkelon. "In the end, I think we will overcome this."


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