In Kharkov, Life Continues as Usual but Jews Are Wary
KHARKOV - Life appears completely normal in the eastern city of Kharkov. Ukraine’s second-largest city, it was one of several locales where separatists began their budding civil war, taking over government buildings and seeking to gather the reins of power into their hands.
While Donetsk, some 280 km. to the south in the Donbass industrial region, suffered from running gun battles between separatist militias, allegedly backed by Russia, and the Ukrainian army, Kharkov is quiet.
Ukrainian security forces were able to quell the uprising here quickly and the city experienced little more than mob clashes before order was restored last month. The apogee of the violence came on April 28, when Gennady Kernes, the city’s Jewish mayor, was shot in a failed assassination attempt. Local Jewish leaders have gainsaid reports that the attack was anti-Semitic. Kernes is recovering in an Israeli hospital.
While downtown Kharkov is packed with shoppers, shops are open and life appears no different than anywhere else in Europe, this is not something that local Jews take for granted.
The quiet is nothing short of a miracle, local Chabad Rabbi Moshe Moskoivitz told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday during an interview in a synagogue.
“When everything started they mentioned Kharkov, Donetsk and Luhansk. Kharkov was part of the cities that people thought would be trouble,” the rabbi said.
While the community is now “far from the conflict” in many ways, he said, the continued fighting to the south has had a tangible impact on its quality of life.
There are approximately 30,000 Jews in the city and many are mulling immigration to Israel, according to Moskoivitz.
“I have all kinds of people who are thinking of going on aliya, kids, businessmen, older people,” he said. “They don’t see a future.”