The Moldovan government announced this week its intention to transfer their embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The World Jewish Conference welcomed the decision and thanked the Moldovan government for its continued support for the State of Israel.
“The Moldovan government took a welcome and important step today in expressing confidence in the State of Israel and in the public recognition of Jerusalem as the legitimate capital of Israel,” said WJC Director Robert Singerin a statement. “I hope that this step will be a positive example for all the countries that are supportive of Israel, who will consider the same move,” Singer added. “Moldova has proved repeatedly in recent years that it is a true friend of Israel, leading the critical struggle against the growing anti-Semitism in the world, and a positive gesture towards many Moldovan Jews living in Israel today.”
Moldova is a landlocked country in Eastern Europe bordered by Romania to the west and Ukraine to the north, east, and south with a rich Jewish history. The capital city of this former USSR nation is Kishinev, and before the local 1903 pogrom that decimated the Jewish population, over 50% of the of capital’s citizens were Jews. By 1920, the Jewish population had bounced back to approximately 267,000, but WWII once again devastated the Jewish population, and today there are only about 20,000 Jews in all of Moldova, including over 15,000 in Kishinev.
During the 1970s and 1980s, many Moldovan Jews were among the waves of immigrants coming from the Soviet Union to Israel. Today there are more than 80,000 Moldovan Jews living in Israel.
The decision by Moldova to move its embassy to Jerusalem comes as somewhat of a surprise. Antisemitism is still commonplace in the predominantly Eastern Orthodox Christian country. Some churches and political organizations still incorporate antisemitic rhetoric and far-right and neo-Nazi groups are quite active in the country.
Because religion was heavily restricted in Soviet times, it is likely that there are many more Jews in Moldova than those who practice Judaism or are willing to identify themselves as Jews.