Increased ethnic tension in the Moslem republics of the former Soviet Union could lead to a new surge in aliyah, according to Jewish Agency Chairman Simcha Dinitz.
About 1,500 immigrants from the region are expected to arrive in Israel during the month of September, and Dinitz indicated Monday that the upward trend is likely to continue, given the shaky political and economic climate in the republics.
One indication of the tense situation is the fact that 95 percent of the 180,000 Jews in these areas hold approved family reunification requests – the first step in the aliyah process. During the past two and a half years, 62,300 people have immigrated from the Moslem republics.
Dinitz noted that Tajikistan, home to 12,000 Jews, is on the verge of civil war, while in Kyrgystan, where 8,000 Jews live, a law was recently enacted that prohibits anyone not fluent in the Kyrgiz language from holding a public or civil service post.
On Monday, the president of Tajikistan, Rakhman Nabiyev, an old Communist leader, was forced to resign following a week of violent protests. The leader of the opposition Democratic Party, Dost Mohammed Dost, said the country could expect more bloodshed in the internecine fighting.
The country’s woes are further compounded by opposition from the nascent and increasingly powerful Islamic Renewal Party.
In Azerbaijan, Jews have suffered through the protracted war with the Armenians, Dinitz said.
Direct flights have eased the aliyah process, he said, and noted that the agency is pursuing ways to add more routes using local airlines. The agency just signed an agreement with Uzbekistan Airways, and the inaugural flight, from Tashkent to Tel Aviv, was to arrive early Wednesday morning with 35 new immigrants, Dinitz said.
While the situation seems to be deteriorating in the Moslem republics, there are indications that at least some of the republics seek improved relations with Israel.
In the first-ever state visit to Israel by the head of a Moslem republic, Kazakhstan’s prime minister, Sergei Tereschenko, pressed for cooperation between the two countries.
During his brief visit this week, Tereschenko said that Kazakhstan could benefit from Israeli know-how in the agricultural and technological sectors, but noted that his country had many things to teach Israel about desalination techniques.
Tereschenko vowed that his country would not sell any of the nuclear hardware it inherited when the Soviet Union collapsed.
“Nuclear weapons will not be sold, not to Iran or any other country. Kazakhstan is peace-loving. Israel has nothing to worry about,” the prime minister said.