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Getting Them Out

JTown local artist takes action, organizing efforts to evacuate people from Ukraine


Greg Tepper

Jerusalem – Reverberations of the escalating war in Ukraine are being felt by Jerusalem residents who are taking action to assist people trying to escape.

Moshe Shamah, a local artist whose girlfriend Hanna is a native born Ukrainian, spent a week assisting her in securing escape for her mother who was in Kyiv, from the warzone. With his girlfriend’s mother now in Israel, Shamah is trying to get more people out of Ukraine. He has an ever growing list, and they are waiting.

He is currently working on helping twelve more to make it out of Ukraine with the destination being Israel. Shamah takes the Jewish tradition of being “a light unto the nations” very seriously, he says. Those he is trying to assist include Jews and Non-Jews.

Credit: Moshe Shamah

“It was a sleepless week of danger and worry, and we succeeded in getting Hanna’s mother out of Kiev along with several other Visa holders for aliyah (emigration to Israel and the securing of citizenship) on a bus with escaping Israelis,” Shamah recalls, detailing the week it took he and his girlfriend to coordinate her mother’s exit.

“They had to remain on the bus for days,” Shamah says, refraining from revealing further details of the escape due to operational security.

“Once at the Polish border, they were on a flight within three days to Israel. I have to give my girlfriend a credit, she did a lot of the heavy lifting. She would spend up to twenty hours a day on the phone.”

Shamah says they received assistance from a rabbi he prefers not to name who has certain connections, as well as a few government officials who he also prefers not to name.

Credit: Moshe Shamah

In his efforts in securing exit and refuge for those he is trying to get out now, Shamah says one of his current goals is raising funds to assist the evacuation and humanitarian needs of those fleeing the war, and well as getting as much attention raised on the subject as possible.

He says raising awareness and pressuring governments to take action are his two other goals, but to the extent that he is able to personally achieve any of them, he is selling artwork and 85% of the proceeds is going to NGOs that are assisting with rescue and humanitarian efforts.

The Israeli government, “isn’t doing enough to get people out,” he said. “I’m hitting walls to get them out,” he says, noting with frustration that Israel has a history of successful missions to rescue entire populations such as the operations to rescue the Jews of Ethiopia.

He is going to try to put pressure on the Israeli government and is calling on other artists to, “pick up the brush and assist, to donate, to call leaders.”

Shamah will soon be in the United States for what was supposed to be a short vacation, that he says has turned into a fundraising tour to save lives. He will be in the New York tri-state area and is already scheduling events.

Credit: Moshe Shamah

“We’re calling on anyone who’s willing to help raise awareness and money, and to protest governments to take action to save lives, and to close the sky over Ukraine.”

For Shamah, his identity as a Jew is itself a mandate to help others. “The state of Israel and the Jewish people can’t keep their head in the sand any longer. It’s clear we’re dealing with Haman,” he said, referencing the villain of the story of Purim in which the Persian empire planned to kill every Jew alive.

Shamah has sold several pieces of his own work and used the revenue to help the Odessa Orphanage, he says, which has already evacuated an estimated 100 children.

The pieces were sold as part of a charity drive , according to Shamah, with a local Jerusalem quartet, String Theory Jerusalem.

“At this point it’s extremely difficult to get people out,” Shamah concluded.

Those wishing to donate or communicate with Shamah may reach him at:
His Instagram is @art_of_Shamah

Futhermore, prints of Shamah’s work will be available for sale at the Kuli Alma Exhibition for Ukraine, which will open on March 20th, in Tel Aviv.