Israeli lawmakers and a delegation from the Jewish Agency visited border crossings between Ukraine and Hungary this week. The delegation includes Members of Knesset Idit Silman (Yamina), Miri Regev (Likud), Evgeny Sova (Yisrael Beytenu), Vladimir Beliak (Yesh Atid), Yizhak Pindrus (United Torah Judaism) and Haim Biton (Shas). The delegation met with local and Israeli staff of the Jewish Agency and its Nativ program, which helps immigrants from the former Soviet Union to reconnect with their Jewish heritage.
The delegation was accompanied by Yakov Hagoel, Acting Chairman of Jewish Agency and Chairman of the World Zionist Organization who, along with Miri Regev gave a brief interview to Neokohn.
What was the purpose of your visit?
Yaakov Hagoel: We came to Hungary with a delegation of six Members of Knesset to get a firsthand impression about the situation on the border of Hungary with Ukraine, where there are about a thousand refugees waiting to make Aliyah (immigrate to Israel.)
What is the situation like at the border?
Yaakov Hagoel: Obviously it is very sad and heartbreaking to see so many people having to leave because of the war. My colleagues from the Jewish Agency are doing a tremendous and important job at the border. Here in Budapest we rented an entire hotel for those waiting to get their Aliyah permits.
Not all Jews want to go to Israel, do they?
Miri Regev: There are many who want to wait out the war and return to their homes when it is safe to do so. Also, many refugees continue on their way to other European countries. And there are also many, many refugees, who want to settle in their ancestral homeland, Israel.
How large is your delegation?
Yaakov Hagoel: Both members of the Jewish Agency and the six Members of Knesset came to get a firsthand impression. This included both members from parties in the governing coalition and parties in the opposition.
We were happy to see that our staff is doing an incredible job at the border, but I must also say, that the Hungarian authorities are also doing a wonderful job. They are kind and caring. One has to understand, it is a real tragedy that is happening.
Miri Regev: It was devastating to see the amount of people who had to flee their homes because of the war. Families torn apart, lives shattered. I must say though, that seeing the professionalism, the care and humanity of the Hungarian authorities and non-profit organizations who help these people we can rest assured, that everybody is in good hands.
What procedures does the State of Israel has in place to speed up the process for those who seek to make Aliyah?
Yaakov Hagoel: The Aliyah process, due to its nature, is a bit time consuming.
This time, instead of a few weeks, we reduced the waiting period to a few days. In the meantime, we rented a hotel, where those who seek to make Aliyah can wait for their application to be approved.
Is Israel ready for such a fast influx of immigrants?
Miri Regev: Israel is the Jewish homeland. Our very reason for being is to provide a home for every Jew. So the answer is yes. O
ver five thousand people have already successfully made Aliyah since the war broke out, and we are ready to take in as many as want to come.
Did you get a reception by the Hungarian government?
Miri Regev: Mr. Zsolt Németh, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Hungarian Parliament upon learning that we were here, was kind enough to invite us to the parliament. We had a very successful meeting which we believe can pave the way for many more conversations to follow.
After a quick visit, you returned to Israel yesterday.
Yaakov Hagoel: Indeed. And not just on any flight.
This special flight carried 150 olim (new immigrants) from Ukraine. It was very moving!