Dozens of Jewish refugees held up for hours at Ben-Gurion Airport

A plane full of Jewish refugees from Ukraine arrived at Ben-Gurion airport. Dozens were held for hours as the government announced entry leniencies.

Travelers at the Ben Gurion International Airport, on March 02, 2022.  (photo credit: YOSSI ALONI/FLASH90)
Travelers at the Ben Gurion International Airport, on March 02, 2022.
(photo credit: YOSSI ALONI/FLASH90)

100 Jewish refugees from Ukraine boarded a rescue flight from Romania and landed in Israel early Wednesday morning. Upon their arrival, they were not greeted by any relevant representatives from the state, a Ukrainian rabbi who boarded the flight told 103FM. His congregation comprised half of the flight.

Katz’s group began their journey in Kyiv early Sunday morning and made their way to Romania through Moldova. As they fled, most people took their documents but some had forgotten them due to the stress, he said. 

[Katz’s family left their house full of food for Shabbat, along with a packed fridge, but did not realize it would be much longer until they would be able to return.]

The group drove for hours until they reached Moldova, where they were greeted by dozens of non-Jewish volunteers, in freezing weather, with food, drinks and clothes. Eventually, they were able to cross over into Romania where they eventually boarded the flight to Israel.

 Jews from Ukraine arrive at a Jewish community center in Chisinau, Moldova, Feb. 25, 2022. (credit: Courtesy of Rabbi Pinchas Salzman) Jews from Ukraine arrive at a Jewish community center in Chisinau, Moldova, Feb. 25, 2022. (credit: Courtesy of Rabbi Pinchas Salzman)

When the flight landed in Israel, Katz’s expectation was that “there will be a warm welcome,” he said. To his surprise though, “no one was waiting and no one knew who they were.” They tried to explain that they were refugees, but were unable to reach the relevant government agency. 

”A representative from the Jewish Agency arrived after most of the passengers left the airport,” said Katz. “Most have relatives who they went to, whoever didn't was taken in by Chabad L'Aliyah.” 

Katz added that he “implores the Israeli authorities to welcome the new arrivals more courteously” especially when it comes to refugees.

Aliyah and Integration Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata (Blue and White) responded to Katz’s story on 103 FM, she clarified "every Jew that enters Israel by Aliyah or as a refuge is taken to terminal 1, where they receive food and drinks." 

Tamano-Shata emphasized: “There was a misunderstanding yesterday, 32 of the passengers said that they are eligible for entry.” Of the 32, 30 were deemed eligible by Nativ, an independent administrative unit at the Prime Minister's Office that works with Jews and their families throughout the Former Soviet Union countries.

“The eligibility of the rest of the flight members was determined at Aliyah and Integration Ministry hotels,” said Tamano-Shata.

On Sunday, there are three flights that are supposed to land in Israel with about 300 Jews, including nearly 100 orphans from central Ukraine. Tamano-Shata added: “The Foreign Ministry has called on Israelis to come, [whereas] I am calling on [all] Jews to come." 

She added that women and children will be able to enter the country even "without their husbands, due to mandatory recruitment of men between the age of 18 and 60 and they are unable to leave the country." 

What about fast-tracking entry for refugees? 

"The whole process can be done via the internet," said Tamano-Shata. "We are mitigating the process with the Interior Ministry and are waiving the need for a 'certificate of good conduct' and even allowing the refugees to enter as tourists.

“All the refugees (from Ukraine) that are eligible for the Law of Return will be processed pleasantly and patientl,” Tamano-Shata promised.