Ukraine's Jewish community hears gunshots all the time in 'tense' Donetsk area

Ukrainian-Jewish activist Aryeh Schwartz told The Jerusalem Post media reports about attacks in the area of Donetsk are true.

 YOUNG RELIGIOUS Jews, several from Donetsk and the east, at Vishetsky’s Chabad community center in Kyiv. Few are considering aliyah at this time. (photo credit: JON IMMANUEL)
YOUNG RELIGIOUS Jews, several from Donetsk and the east, at Vishetsky’s Chabad community center in Kyiv. Few are considering aliyah at this time.
(photo credit: JON IMMANUEL)

"What has been reported in the media about attacks in the area of Donetsk are true", Aryeh Schwartz, an activist in the Jewish community of Donetsk, told The Jerusalem Post Thursday.

"We heard gunshots all night and all during the day today. There was gunfire in the center of Donetsk and also in the periphery."

Schwartz says that he spoke to a Jew that lives in the city of Horlivka in the Donetsk region and that "it is also very tense there. The attacks by the Russian separatists began at about 5:00 pm, and during the day they heard bombings. My friend told me that the whole city was shaking. Many are hiding in shelters in fear.

The area of Donetsk is an occupied territory of Ukraine that is ruled by 'The Donetsk People's Republic (DPR). DPR is a self-proclaimed quasi-state in the eastern Ukrainian oblast of Donetsk. The capital city and largest city within the DPR is Donetsk. The DPR declared its independence from Ukraine in 2014 after the 2014 Ukrainian revolution, alongside the Luhansk People's Republic and the Republic of Crimea. According to NATO and Ukraine, Russia had also provided military aid to the DPR rebels, a claim that Russia denies.

According to sources in the Ukrainian Jewish community, there are about 3000 Jews living in Donetsk and a few hundred Jews that live in Lugansk.

A Jewish woman displaced by the fighting cries as she recounts her escape from Donetsk (credit: SAM SOKOL)A Jewish woman displaced by the fighting cries as she recounts her escape from Donetsk (credit: SAM SOKOL)

Schwartz says that the local residents of Donetsk are afraid of the upcoming attack.

"Everyone went to the gas stations today and filled up not only the  gas tank in their vehicles but also external fuel tanks. They are very afraid that an attack will begin and there will be no possibility to refuel. There were several gas stations in the city that were jam packed - and cars lined up in order to fuel".

He says that many locals have decided to evacuate themselves before it will be too late "Many people I know who can get out (of Donetsk) left towards Russia today. There is a guy from the community who drove towards Russia and said there was a huge queue, it was never as long as it was today. More and more people are trying to leave for Russia".  

He adds that "A fellow Jew who lives in Lugansk told me this evening that the city was under heavy artillery fire". 

Schwartz received Kosher food packages from a local Chabad organization, funded by the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, and delivered them to many Jewish families in need.