“And Moshe stretched out his hand over the sea; and Hashem caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all the night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided.” Exodus 14:21 (The Israel Bible™)
More than 200 new immigrants (“olim”) from Ukraine landed at Tel Aviv’s Ben-Gurion Airport on Wednesday in a modern reenactment of the Exodus journey from exile to freedom just weeks before the holiday of Passover begins.
The “Freedom Flight” was organized by the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (The Fellowship), allowing many of the olim to celebrate Passover in Israel for the first time. The flight was part of The Fellowship’s ongoing rescue of embattled Jews around the world.
Israel’s minister of immigration and absorption, Sofa Landver, greeted the olim, who included 78 families, four Holocaust survivors and more than 40 children. Most are expected to settle in Israel’s north and center of the country. A second flight arriving from Ukraine on Wednesday will bring the total to 232 new immigrants.
Some of the olim came from war-torn areas in Ukraine where they’ve lived as refugees in their own country in recent years amid violent conflict with Russia. Many have also suffered economically, as Ukraine has experienced an intense economic crisis fueled by the conflict
Olski and Irina L. came to Israel with their daughter from the city of Dnipropetrovsk. “Life in Ukraine has become life without a future, especially for families with children. Because of the continuing war the economic situation is also terrible. For us it was clear: if we are looking for a future for our children, it is better to do it in the land of Israel,” the couple said.
“World War II began when I was 12. The Jews were asked to gather to register,” Yitzchak B., a Holocaust survivor, said. “My family heard a German soldier yell out, ‘Death to the Jews,’ and immediately understood the source of the urgent registration. In a split-second decision, my family left the place and asked Polish friends to please hide us. They agreed and we hid throughout the whole war. Now that I am making aliyah [immigrating to Israel], I feel a strong sense of mission and commitment to the State of Israel.”
Landver greeted the immigrants as they disembarked. “I am very happy about the continued wave of aliyah and am sure that together we will provide the olim who just arrived with the best possible care and optimal absorption in every part of life so that they will immediately feel at home,” she said.
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, president and founder of The Fellowship, told the newcomers, “The new olim that have joined us today are carrying with them the burdens of a political war and an economic war. The open opportunity for the olim to come here and begin a new life, living in a strong and independent country, constitutes a rescue for them.
“The holiday of freedom that we will all celebrate soon is a significant expression of the concept of freedom that the olim will feel in Israel for the first time. I call to all of the people of Israel to remember the olim, invite them to their homes for the seder meal, and celebrate their freedom with them.”
The flight was made possible thanks to the support of The Fellowship’s 1.6 million Christian donors in the United States and around the world. Since December 2014, The Fellowship has brought more than 7,100 immigrants to Israel from 25 countries where Jews are facing rising anti-Semitism, conflict or economic challenges. Nearly 80 percent of the immigrants (5,178) have come from Ukraine.
The new arrivals will receive $800 for each adult and $400 for each child from The Fellowship, in addition to having their flights financed. This support comes in addition to an “Absorption Basket” of aid and benefits the olim receive from the ministry of immigrant absorption.