JAFI update on relief efforts: over 100 olim expected during/after crisis

A letter from Zeev Bielski, head of the Jewish Agency for Israel

Dear Friends,

As I open this second letter regarding the situation in Georgia I would like to update you that in a phone conversation I had today with the Prime Minister of Israel, Ehud Olmert, in which I outlined the Jewish Agency's activities in Georgia and in Jerusalem's headquarter and the assistance we are providing as to evacuation, rescue and support in Aliyah to Israel.

The Prime Minister asked me to express his appreciation of all the Jewish Agency employees involved in this emergency campaign.  He also noted that the Government of Israel will assist the Jewish Agency in any way necessary in rescuing the Jewish community.

During the last few days, as the Russian army advances towards Tbilisi, capital of Georgia, and as the tension in the country rises, the Jewish Agency, through its shlichim in the field, is continuing its stepped up efforts to evacuate and save the last Jews left in the city of Gori.

Alex Katz, Head of JAFI's FSU Region went with Grigori Brodsky, our shaliach in Tbilisi, to the city of Gori to check on the few Jewish families left there and to make available to them all the necessary assistance, including evacuation from the city.

In parallel, the office of the Jewish Agency in Tbilisi is handling, in cooperation with the Liaison Office ("Nativ") dozens of inquiries of people interested in making aliyah. Yesterday the special consul who was sent to Tbilisi worked until the late hours of the night checking the eligibility of those requesting aliyah. In addition, the Jewish Agency staff is working with the local community to get all the necessary documents needed to speed up procedures and enable anyone who wishes to make aliyah today or in the next few days.

Yesterday our shlichim spent the night at the Israeli Ambassador's house in Georgia who gives us his full support and assistance.

We are focusing special attention on participants in the Naaleh program who are in Georgia on vacation with their families so that they can return to Israel as soon as possible.

On Sunday night, the first flight from Tbilisi landed in Israel carrying 8 new immigrants.  Employees of the Aliyah and Klitah Department have already visited the olim, some of whom are staying with relatives and others in the absorption center in Jerusalem, and they made themselves available for any necessary assistance in the absorption process.

Further to a decision of the Government of Israel to send planes today to Tbilisi to evacuate Israelis, our representatives in the field are trying to make sure that the maximum number of olim with valid exit visas get on the planes and get out of Georgia. While I am writing these lines, 30 new olim who have left Tbilisi are making their way to Israel and will arrive this evening.

The Aliyah and Klitah Department continues to prepare for absorbing the olim expected to arrive from Georgia.  Further to a meeting I had yesterday with Eli Aflalo, Minister of Immigrant Absorption, and senior staff of his ministry, together with Eli Cohen, Director-General of the Aliyah and Klitah Department and Benny Lidsky from the FSU Office, it was decided to expand the project of community absorption in the cities with a large concentration of immigrants from Georgia and enable the olim who wish to live close to their families in Israel.

The department has prepared absorption solutions for the immediate- and long-term for every family expected to arrive from Georgia in the coming days and weeks, each according to its special needs.

The Situation Rooms in Jerusalem and Tbilisi continue to operate 24 hours a day to provide information and assistance to people calling, among them many Israelis who are worried about their loved ones in Tbilisi.

I would like to express my appreciation to all those, in Israel and in Georgia, who are working so hard on this important national, Jewish and Zionist mission.

Sincerely,

Zeev Bielski