Jewish Agency evacuates Jews from central Georgia

Two hundred taken to the country's capital, after Russian bombing poses a threat to the area's safety.

ossetia map 224 88 (photo credit: Sky News)
ossetia map 224 88
(photo credit: Sky News)
Two hundred Jews in central Georgia were evacuated to the country's capital, after Russian bombing posed a threat to the area's safety. The group was taken to Tbilisi which is not expected to become dangerous, as Russia is focusing on the South Ossetia region, said Jewish Agency spokesperson Alex Selsky on Sunday. Some of the Jewish men decided to stay in the city of Gori and its surrounding towns near South Ossetia where that region's Jewish community resides, in order to secure their homes, he added. As of Friday, there was no risk to the Jewish community in that town, but as the conflict escalated between the feuding sides, the border became part of the battleground. The Jewish Agency sensed a threat and moved people to the capital in buses and cars, Selsky said. Gregory Brodsky, a Jewish Agency emisarry in Georgia reiterated Selsky's assurance that the capital was safe. "There is no immediate danger [in Tbilisi], and there is no expectation that a dangerous situation will develop here in the future. We are going to do everything that we can to help the people here." There are currently around 12,000 Jews in Georgia, most of whom live in the capital. Should the danger increase, the Jewish Agency says it is prepared to evacuate people to Israel. Information rooms in both Tbilisi and Israel have been opened in order to help inform the public about the status of family members and hometowns in the embattled region. Selsky said the Jewish Agency is acting in full cooperation with Foreign Ministry, which is also working to provide updates to Georgian tourists in Israel. Those calling the hotline have been mainly requesting information regarding what they heard on the news, or how they can get in touch with family members in the area, according to Chen Mor, a hotline receptionist for the Jewish Agency. Chief Rabbi of Georgia Ariel Levine who arrived in Israel on Thursday said there were reports of three or four Jews missing from the city of Tskhinvali, which borders South Ossetia. "People are afraid of bombings and artillery fire. The Jewish community is located only 60 kilometers from Gori, which was already bombed," Levine said. The following are the hotline numbers: Israel: 02-620-2202; Georgia: 995-32-98-7091. Matthew Wagner contributed to this report.