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Jewish Agency Reopens Office in War-torn Capital of Georgia

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The Jewish Agency is back in the aliyah business in Tbilisi, capital of the now-independent republic of Georgia, formerly part of the Soviet Union.

The Jewish Agency’s office in the City Hall overlooking the central square was in the path of recent fighting, as rebels sought, then succeeded, to unseat President Zviad Gamsakhurdia.

The Jewish Agency emissary in Tbilisi, Mikhael Krichi, was forced to relocate on Jan. 3, opening a makeshift office in a private apartment.

Gamsakhurdia, who was elected president of the republic with 87 percent of the vote only nine months ago, fled the capital on Jan. 6.

The Jewish Agency has since returned to its old premises to resume processing requests for immigration to Israel.

But hundreds of applications for emigration documents by Georgian Jews were burned when the Interior Ministry building in Tbilisi was destroyed in the fighting, Jewish Agency Chairman Simcha Dinitz disclosed here this week.

But the Jewish Agency has reached an agreement with the Georgian government for an Interior Ministry official to work in the Jewish Agency office to expedite the requests of those Jews for whom permission to leave is urgent.

About 200,000 Jews live in the five Moslem republics that were part of the defunct Soviet Union. According to the Jewish Agency, they include 130,000 Ashkenazim whose mother tongue is Russian, 40,000 Bukharan Jews and 30,000 Jews of the mountain region.

The Jewish Agency at present has a total of 11 emissaries in the Moslem regions. Five are in Tashkent and Samarkand, in Uzbekistan; two are in Baku, Azerbaijan; two in Dushanbe, Tajikistan; and one each in Alma-Ata, Kazakhstan, and in Kyrgyzstan.

Dinitz has instructed the Jewish Agency to increase its activities in those regions. That includes arranging direct flights to Israel from Tashkent, setting up permanent offices there and in Alma-Ata, and dispatching special emissaries to conduct aliyah and cultural activities.

Dinitz said the Jewish Agency would give preference to Jews wishing to emigrate from those areas.

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