Videos on social media Sunday appear to show several Israelis fighting with Ukrainian forces, giving thanks to Israel and the Jewish people for supporting their efforts to repel the Russian invasion.
The clips, which circulated widely on social media appear to show the men in Ukrainian military uniforms in an unknown forested area. The video was likely shot over the last week as the fighters thanked Ukraine’s chief rabbi for supplying them with kosher food to celebrate the weeklong Passover holiday.
In the first of two scenes, about a dozen men in combat gear stand, many of them with their faces covered.
“We want to give thanks to the people of Israel and the government of Israel for the help they give us. We are here fighting against the Russians in this very difficult war,” says one fighter speaking in Hebrew.
He also thanked the main synagogue in Kyiv and Ukrainian Chief Rabbi Moshe Azman for providing the troops with kosher food and helping them celebrate Passover.
“I want to say thank you to the whole Jewish people who are helping us, we are here for you, for the whole nation,” said another man, also speaking in Hebrew. “We are here for all those whose lives are in danger. We are fighting for you, doing good work.”
In a second clip, 9 men stood in a semicircle holding up a Ukrainian and an Israeli flag.
“We, the soldiers of the Ukrainian army who are at the front fighting the Russian invader, want to express our support for the people of Israel who are experiencing severe terror attacks,” he said, referring to the pate of attacks in recent weeks that have left 11 Israelis dead.
“When Russia started this war against us, you stood with us and so we want to give our thanks for your support and are standing with you at this difficult time,” he said. “We are sure that our countries will be able to defeat the enemy and end the terror.”
There are believed to be hundreds of Ukrainian-born Israelis and several native Israelis who traveled to Ukraine to join volunteer units after the Russian invasion, but the exact numbers are not clear.
The effusive thanks given to Israel in the videos is also unclear, with Ukraine previously repeatedly chastising Israel for its tepid support.
Israel has avoided aligning too closely with either side since Russian troops invaded Ukraine on February 24. It is one of the few countries that maintains relatively warm relations with both Ukraine, a fellow democracy, and Russia.
However, the rhetoric coming from Jerusalem shifted in the wake of the reports of widespread civilian killings by the Russians. Foreign Minister Yair Lapid even explicitly accused Russia of war crimes earlier this month, in the strongest comments against Moscow yet by a top Israeli official.
In a sign of a slight shift, Defense Minister Benny Gantz said Wednesday that Israel will supply helmets and flak jackets to the beleaguered nation’s emergency services after long refusing to provide defensive equipment to Ukraine,
Gantz spoke to his Ukrainian counterpart, Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov, following several requests for such equipment, and updated him on Israel’s decision, his office said in a statement.
Jerusalem first weighed Ukrainian requests for some defensive equipment in March. More recently, devastating images coming out of the Kyiv suburb of Bucha galvanized many countries against the Russian effort and led to a marked change of tone for Israeli politicians.
While Jerusalem might have somewhat shifted its tone to align more with Western powers, it has so far steadfastly declined to contribute to the Ukrainian military effort. Instead, Israel has sent a 100-ton humanitarian aid package to Ukraine and built a field hospital in the west of the country.
Kyiv has long asked for Israel to sell it defensive military equipment, including the Iron Dome air defense system, but so far has been rebuffed by Jerusalem. Ukraine has also requested cyber weaponry to use against Russia, including the NSO Group’s controversial Pegasus hacking software, according to reports.