Georgians in Israel say they're willing to fight

"All of my family is there, and I want to protect them from the Russians," says a man who immigrated to Israel from Georgia 12 years ago.

georgian israelis 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
georgian israelis 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
A roaring crowd of Georgians - some with Israeli citizenship and some without - stood in front of the Russian embassy in Tel Aviv on Monday in protest of the ongoing military operations in their home country, while some said they'd even go back and fight, if given the chance. "I'm trying to find the next flight over," said George Jorjikya, who immigrated to Israel from Georgia 12 years ago. "All of my family is there, and I want to protect them and protect the country from the Russians. What they're doing to Georgia is a crime." But Jorjikya said he realized that flights going into Georgia have been all but cut off, and flying back into the capital, Tbilisi, was virtually impossible. "I'm thinking about flying into Istanbul and then going in by land," he said. "If I don't go, then who else will?" A spokeswoman from the Georgian embassy confirmed that there had been a full call-up of Georgian reserves within the country, but was unsure if the call-up applied to citizens residing overseas. She told The Jerusalem Post that only the ambassador could answer such questions, and he failed to respond before press time. Nonetheless, many of those gathered near the beach in Tel Aviv seemed extremely determined to make it back to Georgia and enlist or volunteer with the Georgian military. Deto Pivegze, a 19-year-old from Lod, said he and his friends were trying to organize a flight back so they too could volunteer with the Georgian army. "There's quite a few of us," he said. "And I know there's a lot of problems at the airport, but I think if we get enough people they'll fly us in." "There are Georgian people all over the world," said another young man who stood nearby, draped in a large Georgian flag. "At times like these, we all stand as one." When asked if he felt a dual loyalty in going to fight the Russians while Israel was still embroiled in conflict with its neighbors, the young man, named David, said he felt the two were connected. "Do you know where the word 'Jid' comes from? It comes from Russia." Another man, Avto Nemichelshvili, said he was urgently trying to find a flight into Tbilisi to enlist with his reserve unit, which had already been deployed. "Me and my wife are trying to go back as soon as possible," he said. Nemichelshvili, who is not an Israeli citizen, had come to Israel on vacation with his wife when the fighting broke out. "I'm an enlisted soldier in the reserves and my unit has been called up," he said. "I have to go back, my friends and family need me." Nemichelshvili's wife, Tamara, stood nearby crying. "I'm crying because the Russians are turning Georgia into Afghanistan," she said. "They provoked this war and they are turning the country upside down." As the protest wore on, more and more supporters turned out and yelled slogans in the direction of the Russian embassy compound. "[Russian Prime minister Vladimir] Putin is a fascist!" they cried out fervently, as passing cars honked in agreement, some even waving Georgian flags from their windows. "Putin is a murderer!" "If the world allows Georgia to fall, all of the other small countries surrounding Russia will fall," explained one man, who said he also would go back to Georgia and fight if need be. "The West needs to intervene, someone needs to intervene," he said. "This is unacceptable." But not all of the protesters were Georgian. "I am Russian and I came to show my disapproval of my country's actions," said Victor Manevich, who immigrated to Israel from Moscow. "I'm not a Russian citizen anymore," he said. "I've been here for 17 years. But I served in the Russian army and was a tank commander in Israel, so I feel I've paid my dues." But Manevich explained that Russia's territorial ventures, such as the ongoing one in Georgia, where nothing new, and based in a pre-World War Russian mentality of controlling their historic fiefdoms. "I urge you to look into the Russian actions in Finland from 1939 to 1940," he said. "It was very similar to this situation, and that was a precursor to the Second World War."