Jewish Agency for Israel prepares to exit Russia
A court hearing has been set for next week to determine whether or not the agency can continue to operate in Russia
By News Desk - August 11 2022

(Photo credit: Times of Israel)

The Jewish Agency for Israel has announced its readiness to shut down operations in Russia and start working online, as it waits for a decision from Moscow’s Ministry of Justice, Israeli media reported on 10 August.

The Jewish Agency for Israel is an international organization that operates as a non-profit in order to promote Jewish immigration to Israel.

Last month, the Russian Ministry of Justice ordered the dissolution of the agency’s branch in Russia after a lawsuit was made against it in Moscow’s Basmanny District Court. A trial has been scheduled to take place on 19 August, which will determine the fate of the organization.

“We are examining all the options for a rainy day … The trial could go both ways: shut down, or staying under tightened regulation … But we are certainly not going to leave if we can help it,” Israeli media quoted an anonymous Jewish Agency official as saying.

A separate source told media that the self-proclaimed NGO will continue to run its operations for Aliyah (Jewish immigration to Israel) online and via telephone from the occupied territories, but expressed concern that the potential closure could negatively affect the immigration process for Russian Jews wishing to settle in Israel.

“The Agency has no intention of closing down its activities and leaving Russia. We will adapt ourselves to the requirements of Russian law and operate within its framework, but we will continue to be present and operate in Russia, as far as this is legally possible for us,” a senior agency official said.

On 9 August, Israeli President Isaac Herzog spoke on the phone with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, after an Israeli delegation visiting Moscow at the end of last month failed in its attempt to reverse the decision.

The two presidents agreed during the phone call that they would keep communication open on the matter.

Israeli media reported that the Russian move may potentially be “political punishment” for positions taken by Tel Aviv in support of Ukraine, specifically in relation to statements of public officials or indirect military support for the Ukrainian army.

While Israel has not directly supported the Ukrainian army with weapons, the Ukrainian ambassador to Israel confirmed the presence of Israeli citizens among the foreign legion of the Ukrainian armed forces.

Additionally, Hebrew newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth reported on 25 March that reserve members of the Israeli military, who hail from the elite commandos unit known as the General Staff Company, have been training Ukrainian volunteers to fight against Russia.

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