The war in Georgia may be waning, but those who fled its horrors are still living with its aftermath. And dozens of them have found new homes in Israel. A total of 75 new immigrants arrived in Israel last week from Georgia, with most of them settling in the cities of Bat Yam and Ashdod.
The Immigrant Absorption Ministry has already approved an assistance package for the newcomers that will include Hebrew schooling, employment offers and subsidized rent. Underprivileged immigrants will also receive a grant of several thousand shekels. According to the Jewish Agency, some 120 additional Georgians are preparing to immigrate to Israel within the coming months.
The Memisashvili family abandoned its home in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi and arrived in Israel last week. Vaj'a and his wife, both in their thirties, and their two children, aged 3 and 8, have taken up temporary residence in Kibbutz Messila in northern Israel, as part of a collaborative program between the Jewish Agency and the Kibbutz Movement.
The Memisashvili family (Photo: Brian Hendler)
"I feel like I've come home," said a proud Vaj'a, who has already managed to squeeze in a visit to Jerusalem. "Here, I am not afraid of a war starting. As an Israeli citizen I will do whatever is necessary to defend the homeland. I feel like we've come home, and I know everything will work out for the best."
The kibbutz, he says, has welcomed his family with open arms. "I have a lot of family in Israel, and I heard stories of when they first immigrated, I was surprised by the way people responded to us. They come over, they visit, they bring us clothes and things for our home, and we were even invited over for Shabbat dinner. It warms the heart."
Natia Zurshvili, a single mother of two, was a resident of Gori. The town became the epicenter of the violent clashes between Russia and Georgia, and is currently still under Russian occupation.
"Our house was bombed, almost all of it collapsed," she told Ynet. "My father took me, he children and my mother to Tbilisi, and then went back to collect our belongings. Now he can't get out of there, because the Russians have closed it down. But he will immigrate too, because there's no choice left. There is nothing there."
City under siege, Gori (Photo: AP)
Zurshvili, her children are currently staying at an absorption center in Ashdod along with her sister and her sister's family.
"We came with nothing, not even a change of clothes," recalls Natia. "It's hard to describe the hell we've been through. I'm in daily contact with my father, he doesn't leave the house – what's left of it, and we're very worried about him."
In the coming days Zurshvili is expected to move into a larger apartment along with her children and mother, and she has been declared eligible for the welfare grant.
"I'm still in shock because of everything that's happened, but I hope we'll manage. I'm an accountant, I hope I can find work and make a living here."