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Ukraine: despite rising tension, aliyah continues

Koen Carlier - 26 April 2021

There has been a lot of concern over the last few weeks. There was much speculation about the Russian troop buildup in Crimea (southern Ukraine) and near the border in eastern Ukraine. The Crimea area is about the size of Israel. In recent weeks, war violence has flared up again, with several soldiers killed mostly on the Ukrainian side. At the highest level, there has been much discussion about how Western Europe will respond if there is an attack on eastern and southern Ukraine.


Increased requests for Aliyah

It was a complete surprise when the war broke out in the spring of 2014. For the first time we were confronted with thousands of Jewish refugees seeking refuge in western Ukraine. They traveled mainly to Kiev, from where a special campaign was started for anyone who wanted to go to Israel. If the situation were to escalate again in the coming months, how many people will decided to leave this time?

We are already noticing an increase in the demand for the help we provide during the Aliyah process. People are asking for assistance with passports applications and for their visits to the Israeli embassy, which is needed to obtain the necessary papers to make Aliyah.


In recent weeks, we mainly brought Jewish families from western Ukraine to Israel. Among them was Angela, a young woman from a small village we had never visited. To make ends meet, she worked in Russia. However, this became increasingly difficult. Angela always needed to have the right documents, and the tensions with Russia made this very complicated.

Angela decided to make Aliyah to Israel on April 22, along with several other families. Angela’s grandmother Faina Schneider is still alive. As a young orphan girl, she ended up in the Bershad ghetto. Now, more than eighty years later, her granddaughter is leaving for Israel. As Angela was leaving, Faina said: ‘My dear girl, you go to Israel. If I had been younger I would have loved to go with you.’ When Angela shared this with me, I was reminded of Ezekiel 37:11-14:

Then he said to me: “Son of man, these bones are the people of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’  Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel.  Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them.  I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord.’”


Angela and all the olim (new immigrants to Israel) were brought to the shelter the night before departure and the next day we took them to the airport. The Jewish Agency was waiting for them already with instructions and their plane ticket.


‘My dear girl, you go to Israel. If I had been younger I would have loved to go with you.’

Three more flights

We hope that three more flights with a total of more than 200 olim will depart from Ukraine this week. One flight will depart from Odessa for Tel Aviv and the other two from Kiev. The passengers on these flights are mainly olim from eastern and southern Ukraine.

Together with our driver Sergey, we will drive to Kherson and Nikolayev in southern Ukraine and bring olim to Odessa. Then we will continue to Mariupol in the east, to meet Rabbi Mendel there, and also visit the daughter, granddaughter and great-grandson of the blind Anatoly. Lastly we will drive for 14 hour to Kiev with our minibus full of new olim and their luggage.

Read Anatoly’s inspiring Aliyah story here

What the future brings us in Ukraine is still a matter of guessing. We are not going to speculate too much, but we try to prepare ourselves as best as we can in the event that a new war breaks out. Of course we pray and hope for the best, but we prepared for the worst.

We are aware that rumors of war can cause Jewish families to consider Aliyah. They may know that there is always a safe place for them in Israel. Will you pray for our drivers this week, that they will be able to safely bring new olim to the airport? Also pray for all who hope to make Aliyah and a good homecoming in Israel!


“Come, Zion! Escape, you who live in Daughter Babylon!”

Zechariah 2:7


Support our campaign ‘Bring the Jews Home’.
It costs 135 euros or 165 US $ to assist one Ukrainian Jewish man or woman for making aliyah.
Any amount is welcome!

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