Four hundred new immigrants from Ukraine are arriving this week at Ben-Gurion Airport on two special flights organized by the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (“The Fellowship”), part of a surge of more than 1,000 immigrants from eight countries who have moved to Israel this summer with the organization.
The immigrants (olim) came to Israel to escape economic hardship and the ongoing violence of the Ukrainian civil war. The latest immigrants follow 740 others on 19 flights from eight countries who arrived with The Fellowship earlier this summer. Since the outbreak of the Ukraine conflict in 2014, many Jews have been forced to leave their homes, while others have seen their homes damaged by shelling or lost people close to them.
Andrei Tatarchenko, 46, of Sumi, said that “the conflict affected my life. Some of my comrades were killed on the front lines defending Ukraine, and some of them were seriously injured.”
Despite the challenges these immigrants faced in Ukraine, 37 of decided to live the Gaza Strip, an area that has seen a recent flare-up in missile attacks and violence. Two families even chose to live right next to the Gaza border in kibbutzim of the Eshkol Regional Council.
Among the immigrants were 93 children who are expected to begin school in Israel next week, including 10 children who will begin their first year of grade school. Some of the immigrants said seeing their children attend Israeli schools played a major factor in their decision to move to Israel.
“It is very important to us that our son will have the opportunity to integrate into the education system in Israel, which is of a high standard and with a connection to the values of Judaism,” said Stanislaw Kasienko, one of the immigrants.
The Fellowship’s Founder and President, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, said The Fellowship has seen a recent spike in immigration. “We are excited to see a record number of immigrants coming to Israel from all over the world this summer. It’s incredibly moving to see the children and their families so excited about starting school in Israel, and I call on the Israeli public to welcome the immigrants with open arms. Every child, man and woman who arrives here expands our horizons of hope and dreams for our Jewish future.”
Supported by hundreds of thousands of evangelical Christians worldwide, the Fellowship is playing an increasingly critical role in bringing new immigrants to Israel. For over 20 years, the Fellowship spent more than $200 million to bring 750,000 immigrants to Israel, first with the Jewish Agency, then with the organization it helped create, Nefesh B’Nefesh. In 2014, the Fellowship began bringing immigrants independently, and has brought more than 14,500 immigrants to Israel from 26 countries where Jews are facing rising anti-Semitism, are threatened by terrorism or are suffering economic hardship.
The Fellowship also helps ease the challenges of starting a new life in the Jewish state, by cutting back on bureaucracy, and boosting standard government assistance with assistance with rentals, household items such as appliances and furniture, and employment support. The Fellowship’s help starts before immigrants depart their native countries, providing seminars about Israeli life and holding job fairs.
(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)