Right before Passover, 230 new immigrants from Ukraine landed in Ben Gurion Airport early Tuesday as part of the Freedom Flight organized by the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ) headed by Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein.
For many of them the upcoming Passover holiday will be the first celebrated in Israel. Part of a recent wave of Aliyah (immigration to Israel), 78 families arrived, with the majority expected to settle in the north and center of the country. Among the olim (new immigrants) are four Holocaust survivors and more than 40 children.
Some of the olim came from embattled areas in Ukraine where in recent years they lived as refugees in their own country. For many of them the last two years, during which the country experienced an intense economic crisis, was a challenge filled difficulties.
Olski and Irina L. came to Israel with their daughter from the city of Dnipropetrovsk. According to them, "Life in Ukraine has become life without a future, especially for families with children. Because of the continuing war, the economic situation is also terrible. For us it was clear, if we are looking for a future for our children, it is better to do it in the land of Israel."
Yitzchak B., a Holocaust survivor, remarks, "The world war began when I was 12. The Jews were asked to gather to register. My family heard a German soldier yell out 'Death to the Jews' and immediately understood the source of the urgent registration. In a split second decision, my family left the place and asked Polish friends to please hide us. They agreed and we hid throughout the whole war. Now that I am making Aliyah to Israel, I feel a strong sense of mission and commitment to the State of Israel. I am happy and excited to reunite with my son who already lives in Israel."
When the olim descended from the airplane, Minister of Immigration and Absorption Sofa Landver was waiting for them with a festive ceremony in the airport.
"I am very happy about the continued wave of Aliyah and am sure that together we will provide the olim who just arrived with the best possible care and optimal absorption in every part of life so that they will immediately feel at home," the minister said.
Jeff Kaye, Executive Vice President of the IFCJ, turned to the olim and told his own personal story. "I also made Aliyah to Israel more than 30 years ago, and in all honesty I can say that it was not always easy, but I never regretted it. The land of Israel is my home and it is home for all of us. I want to thank all of you personally for giving us, at the IFCJ, your trust and the opportunity to bring you to Israel."
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, President of the IFCJ said, "The new olim that have joined us today are carrying with them a burden that is not at all simple—the burden of a political war and no less than that, an economic war. The open opportunity for the olim to come here and begin a new life, living in a strong and independent country, constitutes a rescue for them. The holiday of freedom that we will all celebrate soon is a significant expression of the concept of freedom that the olim will feel in Israel for the first time. I call to all of the people of Israel to remember the olim and invite them to their homes for the seder meal and to celebrate their freedom with them."
This flight was made possible due to the support of IFCJ's 1.6 million Christian donors in America and around the world, who are committed to briniging Jews from all around the world back to their historical homeland.
Since the IFCJ began its independent program to bring olim to Israel in 2014, olim from 19 different countries have come to Isarel through the organization. Out of these, 5,179 olim came from Ukraine.
The olim in IFCJ's last few flights, like the rest of the olim who came through the IFCJ, will receive assistance of $800 for each adult and $400 for each child from the IFCJ, in addition to having their flights financed. This support given by the IFCJ comes as an addition to the "Absorption Basket" (sal klitah) and the benefits the olim receive from the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption.