The war in Ukraine has turned millions of the country’s citizens into war refugees who have fled their homes to neighboring countries. The war has brought with it thousands of applications for Aliyah to Israel from Ukrainians who are eligible under the Law of Return, residents of Ukraine who wish to immigrate to Israel. Many of them are in transit hotels rented by the Jewish Agency in the neighboring countries of Poland, Moldova, Hungary and Romania, mainly women and children, some of whom came to these places destitute. The refugees are in hotels for several days and have to decide whether they are going to immigrate to Israel or to a temporary shelter in one of the European countries.
Beyond the complex struggle and the leaving of their home and their community, the refugees also have to deal with difficulties in communicating due to language differences, while at the same time the many mothers, who arrived without their partner, try to take care of the needs of the many children there.
When Bat Ami, Israel’s National Service Association, learned of this stressful situation by members of the Conference of European Rabbis that operates there, they immediately offered assistance. Within days, the organization located girls serving in the Israel’s National Service, an alternative for girls who cannot or prefer not to serve in the army, and formed a special delegation of nine Russian and Ukrainian speakers from all over the country accompanied by an assistant coordinator. The delegation left for Budapest this week where the girls will assist refugees at the four transit hotels there. The trip was also made possible through the assistance of the worldwide Bnei Akiva movement.
Bat Ami, known as “Sherut Leumi” in Hebrew, is a recognized alternative to military service for those for whom the military draft is waived (on grounds of religion, health, etc.). The girls, who throughout the year volunteer for a variety of activities, are expected to serve as mediators and aides to the refugees and will serve as a support for them in their dealings with all of the bureaucratic issues. In addition, they will hold activities for the children and set up playrooms there which will be equipped with donated games that they brought with them from Israel.
Bat Ami Chairman Arit Ansbacher: “As soon as we heard from the Organization of European Rabbis about the situation there and they asked for our help, it was clear to us that we would assist, and quickly. Our ability as an organization to respond to such national aid missions lies with our amazing volunteers who donate their services without hesitation as if it is obvious at the age of 19, with a few days’ notice it is easy to fly to another country to help refugees. Together with them, our coordinator also flew, who will accompany them and provide them with an address that can assist them with everything that they may have to deal with, just like in their service in Israel.”
Bat Ami CEO Rabbi Bnei Nachtailer: “ Even in normal times, the members of Bat Ami take part in the many challenges of Diaspora Jewry around the world. Now we are proud to stand at the forefront of an incredibly important effort and in a time of war, to help the families of the Ukrainian Jews.”