Israel and Ukrainian Refugees

Israel’s Law of Return means that all Jewish Ukrainians are not only allowed into Israel but also qualify for citizenship. With recent estimates of Jewish Ukrainians as high as 400,000, Israel’s government is expecting tens of thousands of refugees to enter the country in the coming weeks.

That prediction was made even before the United Nations announced today that the total number of Ukrainian refugees exceeds 3 million, nearly half of whom are children.

It gives the Israeli government a significant challenge – the Covid pandemic has caused housing supply to fall behind demand and one current estimate says there is already a shortfall of 250,000 housing units.

This was one reason behind the government saying it would only accept an additional 5,000 refugees who are not eligible under the Law of Return. However, that number had already been exceeded by Sunday 13th March and allowing people in on tourist visas does not entitle them to free healthcare or other vital services.

Consequently, NGOs are getting involved, one of which is Christian Friends of Israel, where they are looking to provide relief parcels through their Distribution Centre in Jerusalem.

Immigrants at CFI distribution centreImmigrants entering CFI Jerusalem’s Distribution Centre

Other groups are focused on helping with the early stages of fleeing the war or rescuing some of those who have been wounded, including several Holocaust survivors.

Nevertheless, it is the country’s government that will need to address the challenge of housing an enlarged population.