Tbilisi embassy moves focus to aliya

Some 100 Jews have started immigration process since fighting began; Jewish Agency expects wave of olim.

Georgians run 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
Georgians run 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
A day after 537 Israelis, Georgian Jews and new immigrants were airlifted out of Georgia, the small Israeli embassy there began focusing on processing additional immigration applications. Foreign Ministry spokesman Yossi Levy said that after the frantic day on Tuesday, when the embassy orchestrated the hectic evacuation of Israelis and Jews in Tbilisi, on Wednesday the bulk of the work there had to do with the day-to-day functions of the embassy and processing new immigration papers. He said that all the Israelis who wanted to leave the country had been flown out. Some 30 Georgian Jews, who opened immigration files on Friday when the fighting began, arrived on the three different flights Tuesday, and another 70 Jews have started the immigration procedure in the Georgian capital. Jewish Agency spokesman Michael Jankelowitz said the impression he gained from conversations with the Georgians who arrived on Tuesday was that there would be a large-scale aliya now from that country. An official from Nativ, the organization that processes immigration in the Former Soviet Union, as well as two additional Foreign Ministry officials will remain in Tbilisi for a few days to process the expected increase in immigration applications. At this point, however, there are no plans to send a special plane to Georgia to collect the immigrants, but rather they will fly out on regular scheduled flights from Tbilisi. On Wednesday morning, the Knesset Immigration Absorption and Diaspora Committee held an urgent meeting on the status of Georgian Jewry in light of the conflict. The hearing was initiated by committee member MK Shlomo Molla, one of the minority of committee members who is not an immigrant from the former Soviet Union. In addition to discussing the status of the local Jewish community, members also discussed the safety of Jewish Agency and Foreign Ministry officials residing in the country. Molla complimented the quick initial work carried out in the opening days of the conflict to ensure the security of the local Jewish community and of Israeli tourists in the area, but emphasized that the time had now come to work in a more organized manner to figure out what remained to be done. Rebecca Anna Stoil contributed to this report.