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Aliyah – From Bila Tserkva to Acco

editor - 6 September 2018

It’s Monday morning in Kiev (Ukraine), and due to the holidays, the streets are not as jammed as usual. This morning, the traffic jam is happening in the elevator we are taking to the fourth floor of a Kiev movie theatre to an ‘Aliyah Day’ – a large information fair run by the Jewish Agency on immigrating to Israel. ‘Repatriatsia’ is the word used in Russian. In 2,000 years of Diaspora, the Jewish people never forgot their historic Homeland. Christians for Israel runs one of the many information boots designed to make the transition as smooth as possible.

Tanya, chairwoman of the local Jewish Agency office in Bila Tserkva, has brought two buses and 100 visitors from the Jewish community in Bila Tserkva, an hour south of Kiev. The city became notorious for becoming the site of the first murder of children during the Holocaust. In the post-war years, an small airport provided many jobs but disappeared with the collapse of the communist system. None of the 18 pre-war synagogues have been rebuilt. The minimum pension is only US $59 while living expenses continue to climb. Finding work and housing is hard.

“Of the 50 people in the bus, statistically 30 will go to Israel this year,” says Tanya. “The other 20 will go next year.”

Tanya is also our go-to person for finding needy Holocaust survivors and putting them on Christians for Israel’s sponsorship programme. As she checks her cell phone, Tanya has news for us. “My sister is texting me from Israel. She made Aliyah yesterday, on Aliyah Day!”

“…Margarita didn’t want to hear about her Jewish roots… now she is the first one in our family to make aliyah”

Tanya’s father was three, and his brother Yasha was five years old when World War II made its way to Ukraine in June of 1941. Their father was immediately drafted into the Red Army. He was killed in the first few months of the war. Tanya’s grandmother grabbed her two children and raced to the crowded train station, together with her sister and thousands of panicked refugees.

“When they arrived, the station was bombed,” said Tanya. “My father’s brother and his aunt were killed. My father’s arm was injured, and it never healed.”

Tanya’s grandmother boarded a freight wagon and fled to the East with her only remaining son, all the way to Uzbekistan.

After the opening of the country and the restoration of Jewish institutions in the 1990s, Tanya started working at the newly established Jewish School in Bila Tserkva. “Step by step I got drawn into this Jewish environment, and I felt very comfortable there,” Tanya says. She began asking her father about the family’s Jewish history. “I also told my sister Margarita about what I found out, but I always hit a wall with her. She didn’t want to hear about it; she didn’t care, she said. Something happened to her in school. People hid their origins at that time…”

That was eight years ago. Over the last two years, Tanya has started inviting her sister to Jewish holidays. “One day she made an appointment at the consulate, just in case. And suddenly she says, ‘I want to make aliyah!’” Tanya recalls.

“She was so shy at the beginning. But then we attended the Jewish Agency’s information seminars. After she verified with the consulate that she was entitled to make aliyah, she started asking questions – what is Hanukkah, and Rosh Hashanah, and what year it is on the Jewish calendar.”

At the end of last year, Margarita and her husband decided to pack their suitcases and move their family to the ‘Land of their Forefathers’. “Something in her blood was calling her,” Tanya says.

Margarita told Tanya on the phone: “When our feet touched the tarmac, I immediately felt home!” She has only been there for a few hours, and already she says she so loves it there as if she had always lived there. “This is my land,” Margarita said.

“My sister, out of all people!” Tanya exclaims. “The one who was always against it and didn’t want to hear about her Jewish roots. Now she is the first one in our family to take that step, together with her entire family!”

Tanya says she doesn’t try to convince people into making aliyah. “I inform people about their options, but ultimately the decision is theirs. Yet, my sister said to me, ‘Tanya, I’m so thankful that you put that bug in my ear. With every piece of information, you melted the ice that was inside of me.’”

Help the Jews come home!
Please support our action ‘Bring the Jews Home’.
It costs 135 euros or 165 US $ to assist one Ukrainian Jew for making aliyah.
Any amount is welcome!

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