55,000 Russians eligible for aliyah, stunted by flight shortage

Finance and Aliyah ministers to propose emergency NIS 90m. absorption plan for Russian immigrants

el al plane (photo credit: YOSSI ALONI/FLASH90)
el al plane
(photo credit: YOSSI ALONI/FLASH90)

Some 55,000 Russians who are eligible for immigration to Israel are just waiting for the green light, an Israeli source told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.

According to the source, about 40,000 Russians have received immigration visas and about 15,000 are in the midst of the process of making aliyah. The source added that approximately 70,000 Russian Jews and Russians that are eligible to immigrate according to Israel’s Law of Return are currently living in poverty in the countries surrounding Russia and Ukraine.

“There are about 70,000 Russians that should be on Israel’s radar as potential olim, while they aren’t in touch with Israeli authorities at the moment,” the source said. He added that “these Russian Jews have been living in great poverty and Israel should approach them and see if they would like to make aliyah.”

These 55,000 Russians will slowly arrive in Israel since there aren’t enough flights out of Russia. Prime Minister Yair Lapid has said that he asked El Al to send more aircrafts to Russia, yet sources explain that there is a quota of Israeli flights the Russians will let in.

Additionally, some Russian Jews fear returning to Russia and others are seeking Israeli passports, in the wake of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s mobilization of citizens to fight in the Russia-Ukraine War.

 A passenger looks at a departures board at Sheremetyevo airport in Moscow, Russia (credit: REUTERS/STRINGER) A passenger looks at a departures board at Sheremetyevo airport in Moscow, Russia (credit: REUTERS/STRINGER)

Russians not quite ready to leave

“Everyone wants an Israeli passport, but there’s a year’s wait to get an appointment,” Russia’s Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar said in an interview with Mishpacha magazine.

“I don’t believe they’re quite ready to leave,” Lazar said. “People want security, to have a passport if they need one. But we haven’t seen a wave of aliyah – there hasn’t been a decline in the number of community members,” he told Mishpacha’s Hebrew magazine editor Aryeh Erlich. However, Lazar is also quoted as saying that he thinks Russian Jews are looking for a strong community in Russia. “They want some source of strength. They want a community at their side if something happens.”

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, the Aliyah and Absorption Ministry in conjunction with the Finance Ministry proposed a new emergency plan for the absorption of Russian immigrants, with an investment of NIS 90 million to be approved by the cabinet. Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman and Aliyah and Absorption Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata will present a new strategic emergency plan for the absorption of Jews and those entitled to Israel’s Law of Return arriving from Russia.

Due to recent developments in Russia, tens of thousands of aliyah candidates are expected to arrive in Israel in the upcoming months. According to the proposal, until an individual’s eligibility to the Law of Return is clarified, they will receive the rights that all immigrants are given, including an absorption package and subsistence allowance. This proposal is based on the previous waves of immigration from Ukraine, during which it was proven that an absolute majority (over 90%) were found to be eligible.

In addition, the plan is expected to provide a holistic response in a variety of areas, including housing solutions, integration into employment, health, education and more.

The Finance Ministry will immediately provide NIS 90 million for the proposal, and will monitor developments and allocate additional resources as needed.

“The State of Israel is a safe and protected home for all the Jews of the world, as well as for the Jews of Russia,” Tamano-Shata said. “We will make sure that all olim from Russia who immigrate under these complex circumstances will receive the holistic package that is appropriate for optimal integration into Israeli society. I congratulate Liberman for the cooperation and promotion of the program.”

Liberman added, “The State of Israel is making every effort to bring as many immigrants to Israel as possible.” He said the Finance Ministry “will not spare any resources to enable the immigration to Israel of all eligible people who want it and will invest in a high-quality and efficient absorption process.”

Liberman is the chairman of the Yisrael Beytenu Party, whose main constituents are olim from Russian-speaking countries. Until recently, Liberman hasn’t been very vocal about the Russian-Ukrainian war.

The main problem with bringing masses of immigrants from Russia is that there are only seven flights a week from Israel to Moscow and from Moscow to Israel.

“Without Prime Minister Yair Lapid approaching Russian President [Vladimir] Putin and asking for special permission to bring more flights, nothing will change,” an official from the Jewish Agency told the Post.