• Bus with eagles wings. Photo: C4I
SOS Ukraine

On eagles’ wings

Rita Quartel - 16 March 2022

To the unsuspecting passerby, the crowded little building in the village on the border of Ukraine and Moldova looks more like a waiting room of a busy train station than a place where refugees wait with their meager belongings for what is to come. The suitcases and travel bags may suggest a planned stay elsewhere, but nothing could be further from the truth. Since the beginning of the Russian attack on Ukraine on February 24, the village has been inundated with Ukrainians fleeing their country – often headlong.

For Christians for Israel, too, the village is now familiar territory, as the many Jewish refugees we help, cross the border here. Most of them come via our shelter in southwestern Ukraine, we escort them to the border together, and we take them to the capital of Moldova or Romania via rented buses, from where they fly to Israel. In this way, several thousand Ukrainian Jews have now found a (new) home in Israel.

Jewish school
Among them are also Ira, Marina and their children. Until recently, Ira and Marina were both cooks at the Jewish school in southwestern. According to Koen Carlier, he often discussed Aliyah (leaving for Israel) with them, but there was always a reason to put it off. The war has now changed that. Unfortunately, their spouses are forced to stay in Ukraine (all men between 18 and 60 are not allowed to leave). In the weeks leading up to their departure, the Jewish school acted as a shelter, and Ira and Marina were working there almost day and night. Ira: ‘It’s a strange reality that we have taken care of so many refugees in the last weeks and now have to flee ourselves.’

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According to Koen Carlier, our Aliyah worker in Ukraine and driving force behind the entire logistical operation behind ‘the flight from the North’, the distress in the country is great. The east and Kiev in particular are suffering greatly from the violence of war. People in cities like Mariupol, Charkov and Dnjepr are trapped like rats. Many have been in air-raid shelters for days, without food, drink, water or electricity, in sub-zero temperatures. Koen: ‘Fortunately, Rabbi Mendel Cohen recently succeeded in evacuating eleven Jews from Mariupol, but the need in a number of cities in the east is extremely high. Looting is taking place and in some places people are literally fighting over the little food that is left. We are in a nightmare that is far from over. The country will be totally destroyed when it continues like this.’

‘Freedom Flights’
In order to give as many people from the Jewish community as possible the chance to flee the war zone, Koen now wants to rent buses and drive to cities like Charkov, Dnjepr and Odessa to pick up the people there. Again, a logistical operation with the necessary challenges. After all, this is an area where the violence of war lurks literally on every street corner. Koen: ‘We hope and pray that this horror will pass quickly. At the same time, we hope that Aliyah may continue and that we will be able to carry out many “freedom flights”. The bus we recently purchased and the bus of the Romanian bus company we hired in Moldova both carry an illustration of eagle wings. A beautiful symbol and reference to Exodus 19:3-4, where we can read that God carries the people of Israel on eagles’ wings. He is bringing His people home.’


Then Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain and said, “This is what you are to say to the descendants of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.
Exodus 19:3-4




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