• Veronika with her husband, their son and their "second family" from kibbutz Grofit | Photo: JAFI by Michal Kaider
Support Israel

First Home Alumni Meeting 2022 – Hevel Eilot Regional Council, Kibbutz Yotvata

editor - 22 November 2022

“The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy. The glory of Lebanon will be given to it, the splendor of Carmel and Sharon; they will see the glory of the LORD, the splendor of our God. Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way.” Isaiah 35:1-3

This article is written by Nikita from Moscow, participant of the “First Home in the Homeland” program, who made aliyah with his family this year.

Singing and dancing at the 2022 First Home Alumni meeting in Kibbutz Yotvata | Photo: JAFI by Michal Kaider

The “First Home in the Homeland” program operates in different regions of Israel. One of them is Hevel Eilot where the program accepts olim in seven different kibbutzim: Grofit, Elifaz, Eilot, Lotan, Yotvata, Ktura and Yahel. Here the program has welcomed eight families since the beginning of the war in Ukraine. This article is a report of the latest alumni meeting of the Hevel Eilot region in the Yotvata kibbutz.

“Now we’re all at home! We’re all in Israel”

“I’m so worried, so worried!” – Veronika is repeating over and over again. She didn’t arrive in Israel until spring of 2022 and in half an hour she is going to deliver a long speech in Hebrew.
She, her husband Nikita and their little son Maxim came here from Minsk under the “First Home in the Homeland” program and were accommodated in kibbutz Grofit in Hevel Eilot. Some of the families, which joined the program at the same time with them, had either fled the war in Ukraine or left Russia to avoid participating in the war.
“Now we’re all at home! We’re all in Israel,” Veronika says from the small stage in Yotvata’s local club. Yotvata is a kibbutz located on the Arabah Road in southern Israel. It is known for its dairy production.

Aerial view of Kibbutz Yotvata | Photo: JAFI by Michal Kaider


Veronika and Nikita delivering their speeches | Photo: JAFI by Michal Kaider

People are applauding. All of them share their emotions because they have also made aliyah via “First Home in the Homeland” at different times and stayed in the South of Israel. The program has been bringing new olim to Hevel Eilot already for over 30 years. Children are playing “Mary had a little lamb” song on the flutes and then their parents are singing together “Peace be upon us” (Od Yavo Shalom Aleinu) and “A very narrow bridge” (Gesher tsar meod).


Children in the “First Home” 2022 alumni meeting are playing “Mary had a little lamb” on their flutes | Photo: JAFI by Michal Kaider

The club guests’ thoughts are flying back to their past when they were the newcomers overcoming the same difficulties.
One of them is Gennady, who was in the first group of immigrants that arrived here in May 1991. Since then, he has been living and working in Yotvata as an engineer.
“In those days, everything was completely different. We studied Hebrew in Ulpan class three days a week and worked in the kibbutz on three other days,” Gennadii is recalling. “When we arrived here in 1996, we were given a two-week rest and then we started working”, adds Dimitri, also a veteran of the program. “Unlike today’s participants we didn’t have a program coordinator. But everything is changing over time and the conditions for the new immigrants are becoming more and more comfortable.”

“It was a great idea to bring the former members of the program together,”

Dimitri lives in kibbutz Yahel. Currently he works in the tourism sector, but he previously worked as a coordinator of the “First Home in the Homeland” program for five years and helped five groups of olim to make their first steps in the country. Among them were nine families who still live in different kibbutzim in the Hevel Eilot. All of them attended the meeting in Yotvata. “It was a great idea to bring the former members of the program together,” resumed Dmitrii. “This might become a good annual tradition.”

“I am very proud to see all these people today,” says Gennady. “And I know that our former participants now work in all the factories and all the organizations of our region.” Veronica and her family are now thinking about the same future in the Hevel Eilot. “While living in Minsk we didn’t like the urban life of a big city. So, we feel quite comfortable here in the Arava desert. We have made many new friends, and we also have our “second family” here – a wonderful couple, who help us with everything in Grofit. They also made aliyah 44 years ago and stayed in this kibbutz. So, we are considering staying here.”

First Home in the Homeland program has been bringing olim to different regions of Israel for over 30 years. During this period, it has helped thousands of people to find their home in the Promised Land. Thanks to your assistance we can support more and more families from year to year. Your prayers give us strength to move forward and do what we have to do!


Kibbutzim Grofit and Yotvata on the map

Please support the “First Home in the Homeland” Project. Any amount is welcome!
Assisting a family in the “First Home” program costs € 230 euro / US $ 250 a month.

Support in €

Support in US $