Jerusalem – Operating under the mandate of the Law of Return, the Jewish Agency for Israel, through its office in Tbilisi, Georgia, coordinated the evacuation on Saturday of 200 Jews from the city of Gori, adjacent to the war-torn region of South Ossetia.
The Jewish refugees were transported to safety in the Georgian capital, with the offer to take all 200 Jews to Israel. Israel’s first and most primary statute, the Law of Return, mandates that the government of Israel, working with the Jewish Agency for Israel, will reach out and grant Israeli citizenship to any Jew who wishes to return to Israel.
If these 200 people wish to relocate to Israel, the Jewish Agency has informed them that it will arrange for citizenship papers, transportation arrangements and for immediate housing for every one of them.
In the words of one Jewish Agency official, “That, after all, is the purpose of the state of Israel – to provide a home and sanctuary for every Jew in the world, especially in a time of crisis.”
Since the outbreak of the crisis, the Jewish Agency, with its representative and staff in Tbilisi, has worked to bring Jews to safety from the areas of combat and is expediting the process of immigration to Israel for Georgian Jews.
Last Friday the Jewish Agency set up a 24-hour hotline both in its Tbilisi office, for any Jews in the country requiring assistance or information, and in Jerusalem, so that family members in Israel can contact their relatives in Georgia. Scores of Georgians have phoned the information line in Tbilisi.
The Jewish Agency director for the former Soviet Union communities has been dispatched to Georgia to provide assistance to the Jewish community.
Over the weekend, the Jewish Agency received 60 new applications for immigration at its office in Tbilisi; the applications have already been forwarded to Jerusalem for expedited approval.
On Sunday, eight new Georgian immigrants arrived at Ben-Gurion Airport in Israel.
There are an estimated 12,000 Jews living today in Georgia, the most of them in the capital city of Tbilisi and the surrounding region. The Jewish Agency offers children and young adults the opportunity to come to Israel immediately for 10 days of summer camp and has opened up places in a special program where high school students from the former Soviet Union study in Israel.
David Bedein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. His Web site is www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com
©The Bulletin 2008