But he was enraged when asked about Israel, his home for more than two decades, and his limited support for Ukraine – a position that seems increasingly strange given the deepening alliance between Russia and Iran, whose leaders have repeatedly called for the destruction of Israel and Moscow’s war effort by supplying drones and missiles.
“Ukraine has the right to criticize the Israeli government for its lack of support,” said David, who requested that only his first name be used to protect himself and his family, including relatives in Russia.
Israel’s position is increasingly painful for some Ukrainian Jews as they prepare to celebrate Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, in periodic darkness due to the blackouts caused by Russia’s recurrent airstrikes, which have turned the heat on the main shrine of the synagogue David. lives in Kyiv.
Israeli leaders have refused to supply weapons or defense systems to Ukraine and refused to join Western economic sanctions for fear of jeopardizing security relations with Russia.
Iran will help Russia build drones for the war in Ukraine, Western officials say
The Kremlin allows Israeli planes to target Iranian arms shipments over Russian-controlled airspace in Syria, which Israel considers crucial to its national defense.
Israel’s position has angered Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who specifically requested Israel’s vaunted Iron Dome air defense system. Zelensky, who is Jewish, invoked the holocaust when he asked for help – much to the anger of Israeli leaders, who rebuked him for the comparison.
This disagreement has attracted more attention in recent weeks due to Russia’s increasing reliance on Iran for drones used to attack Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure.
US officials have said “hundreds” of Iranian drones are being used by Russia to target Ukraine, with a new round of strikes hitting the country this week. Western intelligence agencies have also discovered that Moscow and Tehran have agreed on a plan to build Iranian-designed weapons on Russian soil.
Analysts have speculated about what Russia might provide to Iran in exchange for the drones, but the nature of their deal is not yet known. But there is little doubt that Russia’s needs contribute to the development of Iran’s military production capabilities.
“What does Russia promise or imply to Iran in return,” said Dan Fried, a former national security adviser to US Presidents Bill Clinton and George HW Bush. “Israel’s apparent short-term calculations seem inconsistent with its long-term strategy to join Europe and the United States,” Fried said. “What are they thinking?”
Israel is furious at allegations that it is not doing enough to help Ukraine, and has disputed that the Iron Dome could help Ukraine protect itself. Israeli officials have complained that they are not getting enough credit for taking in about 50,000 refugees from Ukraine and Russia, and providing more than $30 million in humanitarian aid, an amount they calculated by factoring the cost of generators, medical equipment and to combine a field hospital, as well as other ‘assistance in kind’.
However, that support is meager, even when compared to some other countries. Estonia, for example, which has just over 1/10 of Israel’s population, has sent $300 million in military aid to Ukraine.
As missiles hit Ukraine, Israel will not sell its vaunted air defenses
Michael Brodsky, Israel’s ambassador to Kiev, acknowledged that he has heard the frustration of some Ukrainian Jews, but stressed that Israel’s security ties with Russia create borders that cannot be overcome. He said most Ukrainian Jews understand that Israel is in a difficult position.
“No government in Israel will jeopardize these interests for anyone else, including the Ukrainians,” Brodsky said in an interview. Unlike the United States and Europe, Brodsky pointed out, Israel is not part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. “Our situation is much more fragile.”
The United States has made it clear that it wants all its allies, including Israel, to impose economic sanctions on Russia and help Ukraine. US officials familiar with the matter, who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe private diplomatic talks, said they never expected as much support from Israel as from NATO allies in Europe, but were still disappointed.
Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt, the US special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism, declined to comment on Israel’s decisions. But she said that as Hanukkah approaches, what is happening in Ukraine “has a very strong resonance” within the Jewish community in the US, given Russia’s re-education policies in occupied territories and its “tropes” that Ukrainian leaders are “Nazis”.
“That message resonates in the historical DNA of Jews,” Lipstadt said.
Israel’s new leadership has sent mixed signals. The next prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has called Putin a “friend,” but hinted during his campaign that he may review Israel’s ban on supplying arms to Ukraine.
Israel’s previous Prime Minister Naftali Bennett privately warned Zelensky that there would be consequences if he ever used his pulpit as a bully to pressure him again, according to other people familiar with this exchange, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private conversations.
Ukrainian energy systems are on the verge of collapse after weeks of Russian bombing
The tension between the countries has been echoed by Ukraine’s Jewish community, which has seen a dramatic resurgence in the roughly 30 years since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Ahead of his family’s Shabbat dinner in Kyiv, 45-year-old Nachman Dyksztejn defended Israel’s actions while saying he understood Ukraine needed military support. Although he now lives in Israel, Dyksztejn had returned to his home in Ukraine to help with humanitarian efforts, including in the southern Kherson region, much of which remains under Russian occupation.
It is not because of a lack of patriotism or support for Ukraine that Dyksztejn defended Israel’s motives. He said he sees his family’s future in Kiev when the war is over.
Dyksztejn said he asked members of the Israeli government why they were not doing more to support Ukraine. But he also pointed out that Ukraine has voted against Israel several times this year at the United Nations, including on a measure related to the Palestinian territories. Israel then abstained from voting last month in a UN vote on whether Russia should pay war reparations.
“It’s not, ‘Each side has a point.’ It is: ‘Each side has more than one point,'” said Dyksztejn, who is originally from Belgium. “Ukraine needs it because Ukraine needs it. But Israel cannot take the risk.”
Feelings were also mixed at Tiferet Matzah in the central Ukrainian city of Dnipro, where about 70 Jews work at Europe’s largest manufacturer of the unleavened bread eaten during Passover. Daniel Synchvkov, 31, usually works in IT, but Russian power attacks had cut off his internet and electricity, forcing him to take a shift at the matzoh factory.
“It doesn’t matter what you are – whether you are Jew, Christian, Tatar or whatever – everyone here believes that every country on the planet, not just Israel, should do what they can to stop this war,” he said. Synchvkov. holes in the dough on the matzoh conveyor belt.
On a recent Shabbat, about two dozen Ukrainian Jews gathered in a classroom behind the Great Choral Synagogue in Kiev because of the impact of Russian rocket attacks on the heating in the main shrine.
They sang the Hebrew prayer for peace and bowed before a knitted white-and-blue sign in the Hebrew spelling “Jerusalem,” pointing them in the direction of their holy land.
They also prayed for the defenders of Ukraine, Jews and non-Jews, and mourned the recent death of a Ukrainian Jewish soldier who had worn a Star of David with “Ukraine” written in Hebrew on his uniform.
At one point, Rabbi David Goldich uttered an obscenity about Putin while holding the Kiddush cup of ceremonial wine.
David, the soldier from Israel who fought for Ukraine, said he was forced to do so, in part because his grandfather volunteered in the Ukrainian army in 1941 to stop Hitler. Although born in Russia, he wore a patch of the Israeli flag on one sleeve – and a patch with the golden trident of Ukraine on the other.
He asked why the city of Kharkiv, home to some of the war’s worst atrocities, would not have benefited from Israel’s Iron Dome system. “It would have been very helpful to prevent suffering cities, to prevent children from dying,” he said.