Shalom Life | May 18, 2014

Ukrainian Jews Create Task Force to Fight Against anti-Semitism

An eight-man unit has been set up in Kiev, with members having experience in either the IDF or with martial arts

By: Daniel Koren

Published: May 8th, 2014 in News » World

Ukrainian Jews Create Task Force to Fight Against anti-Semitism

Following the escalation of anti-Semitic attacks in Ukraine, a region that is ravaged with political instability as pro-Russian separatists continue to take over government buildings and police stations, an 8-man unit of Jewish men has been formed in Kiev to combat against anti-Semitic attacks.

Based out of the Ukrainian capital, the unit consists of men who have served in either Ukrainian or Israeli armies and have previous experience with martial arts, according to the team's founder, Tzvi Arieli during an interview with JTA.

For weapons, the men are armed with baseball bats - donated by an American whose lineage dates back to Kiev. “We are trying to raise funds for bullet-proof vests which would greatly increase safety if the situation escalates,” said Arieli, a Latvia native and former member of a special forces unit in the IDF.

Arieli set up the 8-men task force after he was asked by Ukraine's Chief Rabbi, Rabbi Yaakov Dov Bleich, to help put an end to the anti-Semitic attacks that have been plaguing the nation since the revolt against former President Viktor Yanukovych began last November.

Since then, a synagogue has been firebombed and masked men handed out flyers to Jewish residents asking them to register or 'be deported'.

The Jewish mayor of Kharkiv, Hennadiy Kernes, was also injured during an assassination attempt, though no info has been revealed on whether that was an anti-Semitic attack.

Regarding the incidents, Arieli says "these attacks were well-planned."

Since Russia officially annexed Crimea, hundreds of reportedly died during clashes between the various groups and militias fighting in the region.

“In talks with officials, it became clear the authorities could offer limited protection to the Jewish community so we needed to take security into our own hands,” explained Arieli. He added that Ukrainian authorities are aware of his 8-man unit and that they have given them consent to act as they see fit.


Photo Caption: Members of Kiev's Jewish Task Force (some faces hidden by emojis).

Photo Credit: JTA

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