One senior diplomatic official explained the move in these terms:
‘Russia is saying that the Jewish Agency illegally collected info about Russian citizens... We will bring up the Jewish Agency [with Russian authorities] and address it in an organised way. It will be taken care of at the embassy level. We don’t totally understand the reasoning [of the request to stop Jewish Agency’s activities in Russia].”
The Jewish Agency
The Jewish Agency was established in 1929 as the operative branch branch of the world Zionist Organisation. They are best known for playing a central role in Jewish immigration to the Land of Israel. Since 1948, they have brought 3 million Jews to Israel. If the activities of Jewish Agency are halted, then this would be the first time in 30 years that aliyah efforts would be banned in Russia.
The Jewish Agency has said the directive was not explicitly to close completely but only to close some operations. However, the very appearance that something is amiss comes in the context of increasing pressure on the Jewish community in Russia and concerns over how the conflict in Ukraine can lead to fear.
The Jerusalem post also wrote,
‘An order forcing the Jewish Agency to stop its work in Russia is dramatic and could directly undermine the ability of Russian Jews to emigrate to Israel. Thousands of them have finished their paperwork and have been waiting for flights to become available to Israel. However, the sanctions on Russia have caused most international airlines to stop flying to the country, and therefore, future immigrants are “stuck” in Russia, according to Israeli officials.’
There has been growing tensions between Israel and Russia over Jerusalem’s stance on the war in Ukraine and Israel’s policy of standing with Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine’s President. in addition to this, many news outlets have connected Russia’s targeting the Jewish Agency with the dialogue that took place the day before (on Monday) - Russia’s foreign ministry called out Israel’s strikes in Syria and demanded an unconditional end of the attacks.
Russia has accused the Agency of illegally collecting information on Russian citizens - a claim that seems fairly unlikely considering the agency’s usual scope of operation. Putin’s threatening stance towards the Jewish agency is full of historical significance. This is not the first time that Russian Jews have been stuck! In the times of the Cold War, large numbers of Soviet Jews applied for exit visas to leave the Soviet Union. While some were allowed to leave, many were refused permission to emigrate, Often, their visa cases would languish for years in the Office of Visas and Registration. During the Cold War, Soviet Jews were thought to be a security liability or possible traitors. To apply for an exit visa, the applicants (and often their entire families) would have to quit their jobs, which in turn would leave them vulnerable to charges of ‘social paraticism’, a criminal offence.
The Refuseniks of the Soviet Union
Those who were denied exit from the Soviet Union during this time became known as the refuseniks i.e. Those who were refused exit. Today, Russia’s actions remind us of what happened only a few decades ago.. We can only speculate as to how far Russian officials may go, to stem the tide of Russian Jews trying to make Aliyah to the land of Israel.
Ingathering of the Exiles in Isaiah
In the section of the servant prophecies in the book of Isaiah (43:1-2, 5-6) we read these words:
“But now thus saith the LORD that created thee…When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned…I will bring thy seed from the east, and gather thee from the west; I will say to the north, Give up; and to the south, Keep not back: bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth;
Whether the situation Russia’s Jewish community worsens or stabilises in the near future, one thing we know for sure: The Jewish people are coming home, just as Isaiah wrote. As Russia begins to act more and more like the dragon power of Revelation and when the chaining of Europe begins in earnest, there may be hard times ahead for the Jews in these places who have not yet returned to the land of Israel. If the nations are to unite against the people of Israel in their land, then surely this would have implications for those remaining in the diaspora. The doors to the land of Israel remain open at the moment, but if the events of the past few years have shown us anything, they have shown us that things can change very fast. We wait for return of the Lord Jesus Christ when the root of Jesse will stand as an ensign for the people. (Isa 11:10). This has been Daniel Blackburn joining you for this weeks edition of Bible in the News