On August 12, 2008 Vazha and Irina Mamisashvili and their two young sons Nikoloz, 8, and David, 5, were brought to Israel by the Jewish Agency during the height of the war in Georgia. Today, two weeks later, the Mamisashvili family is living on Kibbutz Masada, in the Jordan Valley, part of the Jewish Agency's First Home in the Homeland program, in which new immigrant families are directly absorbed by kibbutzim around the country.
The Mamisashvili's were living with Vazha's family on the outskirts of Tbilisi when the war broke out. Their area was bombed; a missile made an almost direct hit on their building. Vazha decided not to wait a minute longer to take his family to Israel.
A recent visit with the family indicates just how pleased both Vazha and Irina are with their decision to go directly to a Kibbutz. "It was really the decision of our sons," says Irina, 29, shyly. "When we were thinking about making aliyah before the war, the Jewish Agency emissary showed us a number of options. When the boys saw the video about the Kibbutz they were very excited. If they are happy, then we are happy."
The haste and commotion surrounding their aliyah meant that the Mamisashvili's arrived with only a few suitcases filled with clothes, family pictures and some household items, including a beautiful tea set that Irina did not want to leave behind. After being met at the airport by a Kibbutz volunteer, they were taken to their new home – a three room Kibbutz bungalow that was already equipped with living and bedroom furniture, kitchen appliances, a television, and most importantly in the stifling hot whether of the Jordan valley, an air conditioner.
"There are no other people in the world who take care of each other like Jews,” says Vazha, 39, an engineer in Tbilisi, who left behind his parents and younger, single brother. The rest of his extended family is in Israel. "They said they will think about coming after they see how we cope. The children miss their grandparents very much, but I am sure that they will eventually come here, where their only grandchildren are."
The Jewish Agency has brought 100 new immigrants from Georgia to Israel since the start of the crisis there. Another 100 Jews still in Georgia have had their request for aliyah approved and will be arriving in Israel in the coming weeks. In addition, there are several dozen more Georgian Jews who have begun the aliyah application process. The new immigrants are now arriving on regularly scheduled flights from Tbilisi, which leave every other day to Israel; there are generally between one and two dozen olim on each flight.