Israel’s Foreign Ministry reports that it is being flooded with hundreds of calls from Israelis trapped in Ukraine.
“Save us!” a Foreign Ministry official quoted some of the callers as screaming. “There was a real panic on the phone. People were under tremendous pressure,” he told the Ynet news portal.
But Israeli authorities had for well over a week prior to the Russian invasion of Ukraine urged Israelis there to leave and return home.
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid repeated this call numerous times. A week ago already he noted that there remained “a very small window of opportunity” for Israelis in Ukraine to freely return home, and they should take it.
So why didn’t most of the thousands of Israelis in Ukraine heed that call?
As one Israeli official noted on local radio this week, Israelis have a tendency to brush off threats and dangers until the last minute. A great many also believed Russian President Vladimir Putin wouldn’t actually invade Ukraine.
Now that reality has caught up with them, what are these Israelis to do?
Lapid and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett both publicly called on Israelis still in Ukraine to head over land to the country’s western borders and into neighboring states. But that, too, it becoming increasingly difficult due to Russia’s multi-pronged push into Ukraine.
A rabbi who serves in Ukraine spoke to Israel’s Channel 12 News on Thursday and noted that the highways leading out of the country to the west have standstill traffic jams for tens of miles. That means anyone seeking to escape in that direction could be stuck for many long hours without food and water, and be further exposed to armed clashes.
The rabbi suggested that for the time being, Israelis and local Jews should remain in their homes and take cover.