Stymied by Israeli Bureaucracy, Ukrainian Has Been Making Aliyah for Years

Jew Self-Identified as 'Christian' on Immigration Form

Not So Fast: Yuriy Yukhatskov has been trying to immigrate to Israel for three years, but has been denied due to what he says is an error he made filling out a form.
Ben Sales/JTA
Not So Fast: Yuriy Yukhatskov has been trying to immigrate to Israel for three years, but has been denied due to what he says is an error he made filling out a form.

By Ben Sales

Published March 23, 2014.
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(JTA) — Sitting in his sister’s living room in this town outside Tel Aviv, Yuriy Yukhatskov says he’s glad to be far from his home city of Kiev.

Yukhatskov, 44, says that what he sees as the pervasive anti-Semitism in Ukraine’s capital would grow only worse with the country’s recent unrest. He fears that last month’s revolution could lead to a government unfriendly to Jews.

Israel feels foreign to Yukhatskov, but he’s grateful to be able to walk to synagogue wearing his kippah without enduring taunts or dirty looks.

His only problem is that in two weeks, Israel might kick him out for being a Christian.

Yukhatskov and his mother applied in 2011 to immigrate to Israel and join his sister, who moved here in 2008.

His mother was approved to immigrate, but things did not go as smoothly for Yukhatskov.

One of his answers on Israel’s extensive application for aliyah put Yukhatskov in Israeli bureaucratic limbo, where he’s been for nearly three years.

The form asked for his nationality, home country and religion. Under nationality he wrote “Jewish.” Under home country he wrote “Ukraine.” And under religion he wrote “Christian.”

Israel’s Law of Return allows anyone with at least one Jewish grandparent to immigrate to the country. The only exceptions are Jews who have embraced another religion; Yukhatskov would be ineligible for aliyah if he were Christian. So based on his answer, Israel denied his aliyah application.

Of course he’s Jewish, Yukhatskov says, wearing a white-knit kippah and retelling his story as if he’s gone through it countless times. He says he misunderstood the form and thought the “religion” line referred to Ukraine’s religion, not his own.

“I didn’t write that I was Christian,” he said, his sister translating his Russian to Hebrew. “I didn’t understand what they were asking me. I wrote automatically that I was Jewish, but that the religion of the country is Christianity.”

The Israeli Population and Migration Authority has refused to accept Yukhatskov’s explanations, though it is allowing him to repeat the application process.


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