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An Ethiopian Jewish family’s bittersweet reunion in Israel

This has been amazing year for the Aliyah efforts of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem. Despite the Corona pandemic, the ICEJ has sponsored flights for 1,350 Jewish immigrants to come home to Israel so far in 2020. And Christians around the world are responding to our ‘Rescue250’ challenge to help us maintain the current pace of bringing at least 250 Jews on flights to Israel each month until the Corona threat subsides.

This is a prophetic and humanitarian mission. The flights we have sponsored have brought Jews from the main sources of Aliyah this year – Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and Ethiopia. Many of these Jewish families have faced very difficult conditions and were desperate to reach Israel. One Ethiopian family has recently gone through a heart-rending journey on their way to the Jewish homeland.

Kasia Workanech, along with her husband and two small children, were among the 119 olim who arrived from Ethiopia in May on a specially chartered Aliyah flight arranged by the Jewish Agency and sponsored by the ICEJ. The Christian Embassy has been sponsoring the Ethiopian aliyah flights over recent years, bringing home nearly 2,000 members of this ancient Israelite community since the government decided to bring the last remnant in 2015. Some have waited years and even decades for their turn to reach Israel and be reunited with family already here. The Coronavirus crisis has only added to their ordeal, but for Kasia and her family this has been an especially bittersweet time of both great sadness and joy.

The sadness comes from the fact that Kasia’s mother was finally approved to board a plane for Israel last year but fell ill and passed away a few days short of her flight. The joy arises because Kasia has finally been reunited with her five brothers and sisters already living in Israel.

Kasia’s mother was meant to make Aliyah with her four unmarried children in February 2019. At that time, Kasia and her family planned to soon follow her mother to Israel. This would have ended many years of the family being separated from their eldest sister who was already in Israel. But tragedy struck just before their flight last year, as their mother became gravely ill. The Jewish Agency did its best to move up the date of her flight, but regrettably she died just a few days short of takeoff. Her four unmarried children boarded the homecoming flight in clothes of mourning, without their mother.

This left only Kasia in Ethiopia with her husband and two small children. Her relatives in Israel were constantly praying for their arrival. Then came the Coronavirus outbreak, which has hit hard in Ethiopia. Hopes of seeing their sister faded day by day. But the door of Aliyah miraculously opened once more, and in May they got the news that Kasia would be coming home to Israel.

Upon their arrival, Kasia and her family spent two weeks in quarantine in northern Israel, and then were taken south to an absorption center in Beersheva. This also happened to be the facility where her siblings have been staying since they landed last year. As Kasia entered the gates of the absorption center, she was welcomed and embraced with tears of joy by her siblings.

“I truly did not expect that this Aliyah flight could be arranged during Corona. I was so surprised”, said Getanech, her oldest brother. “Once we knew this miracle would happen, we counted each day until Kasia’s arrival.”

The apartment assigned to Kasia and her family was on the same floor as her brothers and sisters, and Getanech said they were cleaning and preparing it every day for their sister’s arrival.

The family’s joyous reunion was still tempered by the absence of their mother, but they were comforted knowing her greatest wish was that all her children would make it to the Promised Land.

“Our mother always said her dream was for us all to be together in Israel. Unfortunately, she did not live to experience this dream with us. But now, thanks to her, we are all here, together”, said Getanech. “I am sure she is looking down at us from heaven, and is so very happy.”

There are more Jewish families like Kasia’s awaiting the chance to be reunited with the Jewish people in their ancient homeland. The Corona crisis has not stopped the Aliyah, but it has made life much for difficult for many, and the answer is helping them reach Israel.

Please join our special ‘Rescue250’ campaign by helping us bring at least 250 more Jews to Israel this month. You can reserve a place on an Aliyah rescue flight for a deserving Jewish person or family in need.

Book a seat today, and follow our progress in this urgent Rescue250 campaign! Go to: on.icej.org/rescue250

  

Timely help for aspiring Ethiopian Jewish students

When online studies suddenly became a forced reality this year, many Israeli students without computers quickly found themselves at a disadvantage.

Devorah, an English teacher at the Hebrew University preparatory program, promptly noticed that several of her students were unable to participate in remote lectures, as they did not have computers at home. The one-year program prepares aspiring students for university studies, and many come from Ethiopian Jews immigrant families who have found the program very helpful in opening new opportunities for them. By successfully completing a degree, they hope to have a profession which will provide for them and their families in the future. However, as anyone who has completed a university degree knows, these goals are difficult to achieve without a computer.

It happened that Devorah had favourable memories of working with the ICEJ from her previous employment over a decade ago, which prompted her to come back to the Christian Embassy for help. Our AID team heard her heart and quickly committed to providing computers for her three students in need – Eden, Meital and Rachel.

Nicole Yoder, ICEJ Vice President for AID and Aliyah, recently had an amazing encounter with these young students, who shared about their dreams and aspirations, as well as their family backgrounds. Nicole also had the chance to explain why Christians love and support Israel and the Jewish people.

Eden has always known her future lies in serving in the medical field, and even though there is a long road ahead in studying dentistry, she is not dismayed. Born in Ethiopia, her family immigrated to Israel when she was two years old. In their conversation, Nicole was delighted to discover that Eden’s grandmother made Aliyah last year and realised the flight was sponsored by the ICEJ. She met her grandmother for the first time that day. Eden was grateful for that moment and for her laptop as well, saying, “Thank you so much. It is a very significant gift that you have given – one which will make a big difference in our studies.”

Meital, 19, was born in Israel, the fifth child in a family of ten children. Taking one step at a time, she is still deciding whether to complete a degree in mechanical engineering or chemical engineering. She will earn her degree as part of her military service, then serve in the IDF for six years using her expertise to benefit the country, while gaining practical experience that should pave the way for a good job.

A nursing student, Rachel recently had the opportunity to gain practical training in a psychiatric hospital. This experience anchored her decision to pursue nursing as a profession. She also realised the importance of listening to the people in her care and supporting them. Her family made Aliyah from Ethiopia in 1998, but they still are waiting for her uncle and his family to be approved to come home to Israel. Chances are they will come on an ICEJ sponsored Aliyah flight as well.

“It was such a joy to meet these dedicated students, to hear their dreams, and to do something towards helping them realise those dreams”, Nicole remarked afterwards. “Proper assistance given at the right time can make all the difference!”

Immigrants, minorities, the young, the elderly, and so many more are in need of our help to overcome the widespread impact of the Corona crisis. 

Your generous giving enables us to help Israelis like these build a brighter future. Please make a donation today!

Give today at: icej.org/crisis
 

Serving Meals That Make a Difference

Hineni, a community kitchen in the center of Jerusalem, offers hot daily meals for the elderly and poor, serving hundreds of needy recipients every day, both on-site and through home deliveries. (The name Hineni comes from the Hebrew word for “Here am I”).

Normally, this social outreach restaurant has a small full-time staff of a couple managers and cooks, and they rely on foreign Christian volunteers to come in from abroad and assist with preparing and serving the meals. Many of their volunteers are Dutch Christians, who faithfully serve at different times of the year in Jerusalem.

But the Coronavirus lockdowns and travels bans have prevented some of the regular staff from getting to work, while the foreign Christian volunteers have been unable to reach Israel to serve their time at Hineni. Without the normal staff and these Christian helpers, the kitchen would have to close down, and hundreds would be without food. This is where the staff of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem comes in!

Over recent months, the ICEJ staff have been rotating in to serve each day at Hineni and keep it open to feed the hungry and unfortunate, including a number of Holocaust survivors. Each day, at least three or four Embassy staffers are on-site, cutting vegetables, scooping up plates of food, and packing meals for home delivery. Even during the strictest lockdowns, the ICEJ staff were still considered essential workers and could come serve and package meals.

Benjamin Philip, the founder and director of Hineni, has been thrilled and relieved by the help of the ICEJ.

“Truthfully, I must say that you have been sent by God. I cannot say it differently,” he recently stated. “At the time when Corona started, we would have had to close down because our own workers and regular volunteers were unable to help due to various reasons. But the ICEJ came every day, which allowed us to stay open and continue to provide Israelis in need with daily help even in remote areas.”

“Hineni works closely with the Jerusalem social welfare department to provide hot meals and daily necessities to those in need,” Benjamin added. “Without the help of the ICEJ, it would have been literally impossible to do.”

Ryan Tsuen, the ICEJ’s graphic designer, has been excited to serve the Lord here in Jerusalem in this different way.

“For myself, the opportunity to volunteer with Hineni was an immediate Yes!,” said Ryan. “Back in Canada, I volunteered with a small charity which also served meals to those in need. We saw the immediate impact of providing food to those living below the welfare margin. So, when the chance to do something like that here in Jerusalem came up, I did not hesitate.”

“I realize the need for a nutritious meal, and Hineni does not disappoint,” he added. “They provide take-away trays as well as a sit-down meals for their patrons. Seeing the different ones come in is very special, because we don’t know the details of their background, or their challenges, but we know we are called to love others as Christ loves us. And when given the opportunity to love through this act of service, what more can you ask for?”

Irene Sands, housing manager for the ICEJ staff, is also grateful for this unique opportunity to serve the needy in Jerusalem.

“It has been special over the past few weeks to serve at Hineni,” said Irene. “Our work includes cutting vegetables and the ‘hugest’ sweet potatoes I have ever seen, packing boxed lunches for delivery, serving meals and helping to clean the venue afterwards. It has been refreshing and enlightening, working with the staff there and it is wonderful to see Jews, Christians and even their Arab Muslim cooks working together in unity.”

“It is always a blessing to serve those less fortunate than ourselves, and it warms my heart to see a smile appear from offering them more soup or pouring their water for them. As Mother Theresa said: ‘It’s the small acts of kindness that echo into eternity’. To treat them with dignity and to show love, is so important.”

Irene also noted: “I have enjoyed working with other ICEJ staff members who I do not usually work with that much, learning more about their lives and discussing their latest activities, all while dishing up food! It can be more physically trying than office work, but great teamwork helps.”

She added: “I want to say a word of thanks to the ICEJ’s supporters worldwide for enabling our staff to have this special opportunity at this unique time. I am most grateful.”

Indeed, it is such a blessing for the ICEJ to be the hands and feet of our Christian supporters here in Israel. Thanks to you, we are able to answer the Lord: “Here am I.”

Please consider a generous gift to the ongoing social aid work of the ICEJ during this time of the Corona crisis.

A lifelong journey to Israel

Thanks to the generosity of Christians worldwide, we made it! In the month of July, the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem brought 283 Jewish immigrants on Aliyah flights to Israel. This means we were able to meet the challenge last month in our ‘Rescue250’ campaign of funding evacuation flights for at least 250 Jews each month while Coronavirus is still impacting the world.

With all the negative reports associated with Corona, it is exciting to share such good news! And in fact, over the past five months the Christian Embassy has managed to bring 1,349 Jewish immigrants on flights to Israel arranged through the Jewish Agency.

We also would like to share with you the touching story of the Mashevskaya family, who came to Israel recently on one of the ICEJ’s Aliyah flights. After Lera Mashevskaya, her husband Ivan, and their three children (Slavik, Adrian and Alice) made Aliyah, they stayed in a special quarantine hotel for two weeks. This gave them time to reflect on the long journey which took them through a family crisis and into their new beginning here in Israel.

When Lera was 13 years old, she went to a Jewish Agency summer camp for Jewish youths in Russia. It was there that for the first time Lera felt like she was really Jewish, and started learning about the history and traditions of her people.

At that moment, a burning desire was kindled in Lera’s heart to go to Israel. But her mother was totally against it. It would take another thirteen years for her dream to start coming true. Her first visit to Israel happened as part of a ten-day Taglit (Birthright) tour of Israel granted to young Diaspora Jews.

“At the time, I had already met my husband Ivan. We soon became the parents of our first son – Slavik”, recounted Lera. “I passionately wanted to make Aliyah, but Ivan would have nothing of it.”

The next time Lera came to Israel was on her 29th birthday. By this time, she and Ivan had two children. But Ivan still had reservations about moving to Israel. Deeply torn but sensing an unmistakable draw to Israel, Lera left the two young ones with her husband and mother, and came for another visit.

“It was very hard, but I wanted to give Israel a real try, on my own”, she confided. “I had a deep love in my heart for this country and longed to move here.”

Lera spent four months in Israel as part of the MASA program which helps young Jews abroad come to Israel to further their university studies. She used the opportunity to receive training in a new profession and was certified as a personal life coach. The skills Lera learned were in high demand back in Russia, and with this new education the family’s circumstances changed.

“Nearly all of my MASA classmates made Aliyah, taking on new Hebrew names and starting to build new lives in the Jewish homeland”, said Lera. “I, on the other hand, had to return to my family in snowy Moscow. But I went to work as a coach in an international company, thanks to my MASA degree. And because of this turn for the better, my husband began to see Israel differently.”

Then in the spring of 2019, with Lera six-months pregnant with her third child, the whole family came to Israel as tourists.

“I showed them my favorite places in my beloved country”, said Lera. “For two weeks, we drove from Acre to Eilat, dipped our legs in the Dead Sea, visited Jerusalem and prayed at the Kotel, and danced on the beaches of Tel Aviv. During this trip, my husband began to really like Israel, but he still was not ready to leave Moscow.”

But finally this spring, the Coronavirus pandemic changed his mind.

“My husband started working online, without visiting the office. Our family spent all our days together, our relationships grew closer and closer”, Lera explained. “My husband realized that he could do his work from anywhere in the world and he agreed to make Aliyah. Finally, my dream came true – on June 16 we flew to Israel!”

Lera and Ivan have come a long way as a couple and now want to help others overcome their differences. So they created the “Family Coaching Project” to coach other couples. Even during their two weeks of quarantine after arriving in Israel, they were counseling other immigrant families in the quarantine hotel.

“We so want to become a family that will be useful for this State and its wonderful people. In response to the love and care that we received, I want to love, give and care for others in response three times over”, Lera concluded.

We are so glad that through the ICEJ, Christians have played a central role in changing the lives of so many Jewish immigrants to Israel – like Lera and her family. And with August now upon us, we want to challenge you once again to partner with us in bringing at least 250 more Jews to Israel this month. You can reserve a place on an Aliyah rescue flight for a Jewish person or family in need.

This is a prophetic and humanitarian mission, and you can help keep the door of Aliyah open even amid the Corona crisis.

Book a seat today for a Jewish family in need of our help! And follow our progress in this urgent Rescue250 campaign! Go to: on.icej.org/rescue250

  

Learning is a click away

All of our lives have been disrupted in some way by the Coronavirus pandemic, including a whole generation of children forced to learn remotely from home. But for children of disadvantaged families in Ma’ale Adumim, located just east of Jerusalem, this disruption was felt even more when their school closed during the nationwide lockdowns here in Israel. These children suddenly found themselves experiencing the stress of being unable to attend classes, as their families had no computers at home. Thus they were falling behind their classmates, who were able to continue their studies online.

The Israeli Ministry of Education embarked upon a project, “A Computer for Every Child”, to ensure that all children had access to a computer at home. However, to participate in the project, each municipality has had to contribute towards purchasing computers for disadvantaged families in their town, with each family also making a modest contribution towards the cost.

The city of Ma’ale Adumim identified 75 families who qualified for the program. Many of these families are immigrant and single-parent households who generally find it difficult to pay even the most minimal costs of school books and after-school activities, let alone purchasing a computer.

In addition, the town budget for Ma’ale Adumim is already stretched with the many challenges of the Corona crisis. Although the computers were offered at a special discounted price, assistance was required for the project to get underway. So they approached the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem for help, and we quickly agreed to purchase computers for 69 families.

Nicole Yoder, ICEJ Vice President for Aid and Aliyah, presented the computers to students at a ceremony last week hosted by Mayor Benny Kashriel. Expressing his gratitude, Mayor Kashriel thanked the ICEJ and our donors worldwide for extending a hand of friendship in this time of difficulty, not only by giving these computers but also by providing hot meals to many elderly residents in his town over recent months.

Unfortunately, due to Coronavirus restrictions which limit gatherings outside to 20 people, only three of the 69 families receiving computers could attend the ceremony, with the remainder receiving the computers the following week.

*Ayala, an Ethiopian Israeli mother, was so thankful and said that she has “no words to express what a tremendous help this is for them.”

Meanwhile *Meital, a single mother of three, shared how providing for her children alone is so difficult, and that there was no way that she could have purchased this computer. Her daughter, *Batya, also eagerly expressed that there are many things that she would like to learn on the computer, including English, and did not think it would be too difficult to learn how to use it.

Each family receiving a computer will also receive an internet connection, have a technician to install the computer, and receive basic instructions on how to use it. Soon, a whole new world of opportunity will be within their reach.

Nicole Yoder shared at the ceremony how inspired she is to see how the people of Israel, from medical professionals to ordinary citizens, are using their knowledge, talent and energy to help others in a myriad of ways during the COVID-19 threat. “Giving these computers is one way that Christians can do our part to help in this crisis, by allowing young people to continue their studies in these challenging times”, she said.

Thank you for easing the economic stress on these families and for investing in the future of Israel!

(*Real names have been changed.)

Please donate today to the ICEJ to help other needy families in Israel get through the current crisis.
Give today at:
icej.org/crisis
 

 

A Daughter of Israel Finally Comes Home

The ICEJ is excited to report that we have reached our goal for the month of July in the ‘Rescue250’ campaign! As of Monday (27/07/20), the ICEJ has brought well over 250 Jewish immigrants on Aliyah “rescue flights” this month, thanks to the faithful and generous support of Christians around the world. This is a prophetic and humanitarian mission, and we are amazed that the door of Aliyah has remained opened despite the grounding of flights worldwide due to Corona.

The Rescue250 campaign is a challenge to Christian supporters of Israel around the globe to partner with the ICEJ in keeping up our current pace of flying at least 250 Jews per month home to Israel while the Coronavirus pandemic is still impacting the world.

Last week, one of the three rescue flights sponsored by ICEJ brought Nina Akselrud and her son to Israel. Nina's arrival meant a family reunion after 30 years of separation. Her parents and younger brother made Aliyah in 1991. Nina was a young girl who made the difficult decision to stay in Russia instead of following her family to Israel. “Now I think that it was a big mistake and I should have gone”, Nina said this week.

The history of her family is closely connected to the history of Jews in Russia, including the sad moments like pogroms and wars.

“I always felt myself as a part of the Jewish people thanks to my relatives, grandparents, and their stories about our family”, Nina explained. “All Jews are special, unique people to me, part of my family and my future.”

Even though Nina’s father and brother had been trying to persuade her to make Aliyah for many years, she went her own long way. But in the end, she clearly realized that Israel is the country where she whole-heartedly belongs.

“There were a number of things in my life and in my birth country that influenced my decision to come live in Israel”, said Nina. “In 2018, I started to work in public media. And I began to read and write a lot about the news in my birth country. I looked from a new perspective on the economic and political situation in the country. I believe that a person can choose where to live. And I am very glad that my son and I have the opportunity to now live in Israel”, she stated.

By the time Nina made the decision to move to Israel, she faced being misunderstood by her friends.

“My friends said that I am crazy for wanting to go [to Israel]. Many of them said that I will have to overcome many difficulties while starting a new life”, she shared. “But I'm ready for that. I told them I want to have more opportunities for myself and my son. I want to live in a democratic state.”

In her heart, Nina already has a sense of admiration for this small but very courageous country, with its ancient history and bright prospects for development.

It is amazing to witness how many of these Jewish people who make Aliyah are thinking not only about how to improve their own lives, but also about what they can do to strengthen and build their new nation.

“I want to be there and be useful to this Land. I hope that I will succeed”, Nina confided. “I am sure that a happy future waits for me and my son in Israel”, she concluded.

Nina then added: “I was amazed when I learned that Christians who love Israel supported my Aliyah. Indeed, it is the time of miracles!”

The Christian Embassy welcomed another 49 Jewish immigrants on a pair of Aliyah flights on Monday and Tuesday of this week, pushing our total for July up to almost 300 olim brought on Aliyah rescue flights this month. But with August now here, it is time to start the challenge over again and ask for your help in bringing at least 250 more Jews to Israel this coming month. You can reserve a place on an Aliyah rescue flight for a deserving Jewish person or family in need.

Together, let us continue to play our key role in the great, prophetic Ingathering of Israel even during this most unusual season of the Corona virus.

 

Book a seat today and follow our progress in this urgent Rescue250 campaign! Go to: on.icej.org/rescue250

  

I am finally planting roots for my family in Israel

Over recent months, the ICEJ has sponsored special ‘evacuation flights’ every week bringing Jews on Aliyah to Israel, despite the Corona crisis. There are three such Aliyah flights coming this week alone, all arranged by the Jewish Agency and sponsored by the Christian Embassy. This includes 35 Russian Jews who landed on Monday, another 65 who will arrive today (Tuesday), and 34 Ethiopian Jews scheduled to come on Thursday. With the latest cancellations of most regular flights into Israel, these are about the only flights currently arriving at Ben-Gurion airport, which only adds to the miracle now taking place thanks to our faithful supporters.

Each Jewish olim (newcomer) on board these flights has their own family history and unique life stories on how they came to make Aliyah, but all are united by the sense of joy and expectation concerning their new home in Israel. Last week, the Klokov family arrived from the Far East as part of a group of 61 new Jewish immigrants from all across Russia who came on a rescue flight funded by the Christian Embassy. Eugene Klokov came with his wife and two children, and he shared his fascinating story with us.

Eugene was born in 1987, in the city of Khabarovsk, in far eastern regions of Russia. All his life, he knew about his Jewish identity and wanted to explore it further.

“I was fascinated by this and for many years I have worked on re-creating my family tree,” said Eugene. “I was very interested to know who my distant ancestors were. I collected the information bit by bit. Sometimes, I just got on a plane and flew to relatives across the former Soviet Union whom I had never seen.”

Most of his relatives lived in small Jewish communities. And for them, Eugene became a hope – a hope that the family history would not vanish without a trace, but will be passed on to the next generation.

Eugene’s grandparents were from Crimea and the Ukraine. But after graduating from university, they were moved to the Far East to work by the Soviet state, which wanted to ‘populate’ the vast, empty region. Soviet officials said it would be “for just a few years.”

“It wasn't surprising that they were sent east,” said Eugene. “The central government didn't want Jews anywhere near the center of the country.”

The system was set up so that after five mandatory years of work, the Soviets offered his grandparents a small promotion if they stayed a few more years, and so on and so forth.

“My grandfather and grandmother lived all their lives with the thought that they would move the next year,” he explained. “They lived with packed suitcases, they didn’t buy new furniture, they literally limited themselves in everything. Yet eventually, they never left.”

“Maybe it is no coincidence that my grandparents never grew roots in Russia. Maybe it is no coincidence that I am here now, of all times, during a pandemic, finally planting roots for my family in Israel,” Eugene confided.

From an early age, Eugene passionately studied the history of Israel, which he viewed as inextricably linked with his family history. Once, Eugene was able to take part in a Taglit (Birthright) tour of Israel. During a visit to Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, he was shocked to find information about his relatives murdered in the Holocaust, including children as young as four years old.

“I felt a chill come over me when I looked at these photos and records of eyewitness testimony. And when I held in my hands these old documents, I felt very strong feelings. A huge desire arose within me to do something for the Land of Israel,” said Eugene. But he quickly adds that this was not his only reason for making Aliyah.

“I wanted to show my children a different life, I wanted a different future for them. Education, medicine, and the caring attitude of the government towards its people made me feel Israel can be my home,” said Eugene.

After making Aliyah last week, Eugene is filled with great expectations. He wants to start a new business in construction.

“I believe that our life consists of actions,” he insists. “We can make history today, here and now!”

“I would be extremely happy if my children appreciate what I am doing, that I moved from a distant town in Russia to the center of the world, to the country that was waiting for me,” Eugene concluded.

Indeed, the Klokov family started their Aliyah journey home nearly a century ago and thousands of miles away from even their old home. Now they are finally home, in Israel.

 

Please help us bring more Jewish families like the Klokovs home to Israel. It is still possible thanks to the ‘evacuation flights’ the ICEJ is now sponsoring. We have brought over 1250 Jews to Israel over the past five months of the Corona crisis. And to build on this remarkable achievement, we are now calling on our Christian friends and supporters worldwide to join us in helping more Jews reach Israel safely through our “Rescue250” campaign.

 

The Rescue250 campaign is a challenge to Christian supporters of Israel around the globe to partner with the ICEJ is keeping up our current pace of flying at least 250 Jews per month home to Israel while the Coronavirus pandemic is still severely impacting the world. This is both a prophetic mandate and a humanitarian mission, and we welcome your involvement in making this miracle happen.

Learn more on how you can be a part of this urgent campaign at: on.icej.org/rescue250

  

A Day With the Druze

With an early start to a sunshine-filled day, there was much excitement as the ICEJ staff set out from Jerusalem one morning in early June to visit the Druze community of Hurfeish, just four kilometers from Israel’s northern border with Lebanon.

A close-knit, Arabic-speaking minority, the Israeli Druze mostly live in small towns nestled in the Carmel range, Upper Galilee and Golan Heights. While their unique cultural and religious practices differentiate them from other Israeli Arabs, they especially stand out due to their steadfast loyalty as Israeli citizens who serve honorably and with pride in the Israel Defense Force (IDF).

Some 250,000 Israelis live within nine kilometers of the Lebanese border in a hilly, pastoral area that belies underlying tensions. Stick around for a while, though, and one is likely to experience a disruption of that deceptive tranquility – a fact underlined by the recent IDF discovery of six underground tunnels which Hizbullah terrorists intended to use to infiltrate Israeli border communities.

Unfortunately, a severe shortage of adequate bomb shelters along the border means that communities there are ill-prepared for Hizbullah rocket attacks. This is a reality that authorities are working to correct and the ICEJ, due to the generosity of our German supporters, will soon deliver two portable shelters to the Hurfeish Cultural Center – a focus of Druze youth activity and community life.

However, those living in the northern periphery far from the economic center of the country face other challenges as well. High rates of unemployment or under-employment as well as a lack of urban development create barriers to economic growth for both individuals and communities. Investment in education is essential to improve opportunities for women and young people.

To address these needs, the ICEJ is enriching Druze schools in partnership with local leaders by providing such things as computer labs, upgrading libraries, or adding a music room. Our most recent project includes sponsoring an Aviators Program that works in conjunction with the Israeli Air Force and the Ilan Ramon Centre. Currently two Druze schools participate in this program, which aims to develop positive social and ethical leadership among youth, setting a foundation for responsible citizenship.

Mentors encourage young people to dream big, then motivate them to achieve success by accomplishing small goals one step at a time. One highlight of the program is interaction with Israeli air force pilots, who act as role-models and meet monthly with the youth to inspire them towards excellence at school and in all they do.

A local English teacher confided that she wished her own children were able to be in this program. “We’ve seen such amazing change and progress in the children participating that we couldn’t believe it”, she said. “We’re hoping to expand to all schools in the Druze sector.”

The ICEJ staff outing then took us to Misgav Am, which provides a high vantage point for looking over the border into southern Lebanon. Afterwards, we tasted warm Druze hospitality while harvesting ripe-red cherries at an orchard in the Golan, followed by a satisfying Mediterranean-style dinner in Kfar Buq’ata, a Druze village near the foot of Mt. Hermon. Before travelling back to Jerusalem, our host, Mofid Aamer, shared about his 28 years of service in the IDF Special Units and his passion for education to help the next generation achieve a better future. We share his passion to strengthen Israel and know that lifting up all her people is key to realizing it.

Your generous giving enables us to provide a future and a hope to the next generation in Israel.

Please donate to the ICEJ today!

I am finally planting roots for my family in Israel

Over recent months, the ICEJ has sponsored special ‘evacuation flights’ every week bringing Jews on Aliyah to Israel, despite the coronavirus crisis. There are three such Aliyah flights coming this week alone, all arranged by the Jewish Agency and sponsored by the Christian Embassy. This includes 100 Russian and 34 Ethiopian Jews all who arrived in the last week. With the latest cancellations of most regular flights into Israel, these are about the only flights currently arriving at Ben-Gurion airport, which only adds to the miracle now taking place thanks to our faithful supporters.

Each Jewish olim (newcomer) on board these flights has their own family history and unique life stories on how they came to make Aliyah, but all are united by the sense of joy and expectation concerning their new home in Israel. Last week, the Klokov family arrived from the Far East as part of a group of 61 new Jewish immigrants from all across Russia who came on a rescue flight funded by the Christian Embassy. Eugene Klokov came with his wife and two children, and he shared his fascinating story with us.

Eugene was born in 1987, in the city of Khabarovsk, in far eastern regions of Russia. All his life, he knew about his Jewish identity and wanted to explore it further.

“I was fascinated by this and for many years I have worked on re-creating my family tree,” said Eugene. “I was very interested to know who my distant ancestors were. I collected the information bit by bit. Sometimes, I just got on a plane and flew to relatives across the former Soviet Union whom I had never seen.”

Most of his relatives lived in small Jewish communities. And for them, Eugene became a hope – a hope that the family history would not vanish without a trace, but will be passed on to the next generation.

Eugene’s grandparents were from Crimea and the Ukraine. But after graduating from university, they were moved to the Far East to work by the Soviet state, which wanted to ‘populate’ the vast, empty region. Soviet officials said it would be “for just a few years.”

“It wasn't surprising that they were sent east,” said Eugene. “The central government didn't want Jews anywhere near the center of the country.”

The system was set up so that after five mandatory years of work, the Soviets offered his grandparents a small promotion if they stayed a few more years, and so on and so forth.

“My grandfather and grandmother lived all their lives with the thought that they would move the next year,” he explained. “They lived with packed suitcases, they didn’t buy new furniture, they literally limited themselves in everything. Yet eventually, they never left.”

“Maybe it is no coincidence that my grandparents never grew roots in Russia. Maybe it is no coincidence that I am here now, of all times, during a pandemic, finally planting roots for my family in Israel,” Eugene confided.

From an early age, Eugene passionately studied the history of Israel, which he viewed as inextricably linked with his family history. Once, Eugene was able to take part in a Taglit (Birthright) tour of Israel. During a visit to Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, he was shocked to find information about his relatives murdered in the Holocaust, including children as young as four years old.

“I felt a chill come over me when I looked at these photos and records of eyewitness testimony. And when I held in my hands these old documents, I felt very strong feelings. A huge desire arose within me to do something for the Land of Israel,” said Eugene. But he quickly adds that this was not his only reason for making Aliyah.

“I wanted to show my children a different life, I wanted a different future for them. Education, medicine, and the caring attitude of the government towards its people made me feel Israel can be my home,” said Eugene.

After making Aliyah last week, Eugene is filled with great expectations. He wants to start a new business in construction.

“I believe that our life consists of actions,” he insists. “We can make history today, here and now!”

“I would be extremely happy if my children appreciate what I am doing, that I moved from a distant town in Russia to the center of the world, to the country that was waiting for me,” Eugene concluded.

Indeed, the Klokov family started their Aliyah journey home nearly a century ago and thousands of miles away from even their old home. Now they are finally home, in Israel.

Please help us bring more Jewish families like the Klokovs home to Israel. It is still possible thanks to the ‘evacuation flights’ the ICEJ is now sponsoring. We have brought over 1250 Jews to Israel over the past five months of the coronavirus crisis. And to build on this remarkable achievement, we are now calling on our Christian friends and supporters worldwide to join us in helping more Jews reach Israel safely through our “Rescue250” campaign.

The Rescue250 campaign is a challenge to Christian supporters of Israel around the globe to partner with the ICEJ is keeping up our current pace of flying at least 250 Jews per month home to Israel while the coronavirus pandemic is still severely impacting the world. This is both a prophetic mandate and a humanitarian mission, and we welcome your involvement in making this miracle happen.

 

Learn more on how you can be a part of this urgent campaign at: on.icej.org/rescue250

  

A Hidden Story Revealed

The thought of Leah, a 90-year-old Holocaust Survivor, being alone through the Jewish holidays suddenly prompted Corrie of ICEJ Homecare to call on her even though it was a non-working day. Corrie and her assistant entered Leah’s room, and within mere moments of hearing Corrie’s familiar voice, Leah passed away. Despite a heavy heart, Corrie was still thankful for the Lord’s leading that day which brought her to Leah’s bedside so she was not alone in her last moments in this life.

Twelve years before, this highly educated lady suffered a stroke which robbed her freedom and mobility soon after immigrating to Israel. She was forced to move in with family members who found it difficult to care for an elderly invalid, so Homecare’s weekly visits were a highlight. “My week goes from Wednesday to Wednesday because then you are coming,” Leah would often tell the ICEJ team.

Not long before Leah died, Corrie asked her, “What were the highlights of your life?” She responded, “I have no highlights. My life was difficult.” As a twelve-year-old, Leah and her family fled Rostov in Russia, where the occupying Nazis mass murdered between 15,000 and 18,000 Jews. The family knew only fear, hunger and exhaustion as they walked for days on end towards the unknown.

Corrie gently persevered if there was anything for which she was particularly thankful. As she held her hand, Leah began to share:

“After days of walking we reached a farm and were given a place of safety in the pig barn. That evening, through the kindness of the farmer, we received a bowl of soup. I never ate in my life such a good and tasty soup, and after that I made a pillow from hay to sleep on that night. That evening, as a girl of 12 years old, I promised myself to be thankful the rest of my life for this plate of soup and the pillow of hay.”

Corrie had no words but gave Leah a hug. She thanked God for the ability to walk alongside this precious Russian Jewish lady.

There are others like Leah who carry hidden stories in their hearts from past traumas, yet we are honoured to share these difficult and precious memories with them. 

Partner with ICEJ Homecare today, as we give God’s hope to elderly Jews in their last days!

 

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