Agency Rescues Jewish Families in Ukraine Cross Fire

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JERUSALEM, Israel -- Two Jewish families trying to immigrate to Israel had to be rescued earlier this week when they were caught in the cross fire between pro-Russia activists and Ukrainian forces at the airport in Donetsk.

The Jewish Agency for Israel came to the aid of the stranded families, including four adults and twin baby girls, who'd hoped to begin their journey to Israel from the Donestsk airport.

When fighting closed down the airport, Jewish Agency staff drove the families to the city of Dnepropetrovsk, where they boarded a plane to Kiev and from there to Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion Airport.

Nearly 800 Ukrainian Jews have immigrated to Israel since the beginning of the year, double the number for the same period last year.

The Ukrainian aliyah (immigration under Israel's Law of Return) is far from over.

About 11,000 of Ukraine's estimated 130,000 Jews live in Donetsk, the city where Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky was born. Donetsk residents have been dealing with almost daily firefights in the city.

Meanwhile, many Jews in the Ukrainian city of Kharkov are also considering aliyah, Jerusalem Post correspondent Sam Sokol reported from the city.

But Ukrainian Jews aren't the only ones heading for Israel.

Last Thursday, 40 Bnei Menashe, Jews from northern India believed to be descendants of the lost tribe of Menashe, touched down at Ben Gurion. Another 250 Bnei Menashe are slated to arrive next month.

An organization called Shavei Israel, chaired by Michael Freund, has spearheaded the aliyah of the Bnei Menashe for years.

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