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Biblical understanding about Israel

December 18, 2013

The distribution of food parcels in the Ukraine; heartrending but essential

A group of volunteers from The Netherlands is visiting the Ukraine to learn more about the Jewish community. I am part of a film crew that is working on a documentary about the work of Christians for Israel in the Ukraine. In the past couple of days, the volunteers packed 1,350 food parcels that will be distributed in a single large operation amongst the Jews in the provinces of Vinnitsa and Khmelnitsky.

Visiting Tsila Koifmann
Bratslav. A village with a rich Jewish history. In the early twentieth century 6,269 Jews lived there but presently only 47. We visit Tsila Koifmann, the oldest Jewish inhabitant of Bratslav. She is 86 years old and demented. As we enter the dwelling, I am left breathless by the offensive odour. The ‘living room’ is nothing more than a dark area, three by four meters, which is filled with debris and refuse. The outside temperature is minus 7 but, due to the wind chill factor, minus 15. And it is hardly warmer inside. We find Tsila, hump backed due to arthritis and, probably, the cold.

She wears something that doubles as a cardigan, while her underpants almost hang on her knees. Her naked legs are skin and bone. Koen Carlier tells her the reason for our visit is because of our love for the Jewish people, and then he hands her a food parcel. She looks at him without comprehension. Koen said to me: ‘go on, give her a kiss’. I do it. At that moment I could not help but abhor the offensive smell of the house and the woman. I despised myself about this thought. Our dear Lord loves her. I pull myself together and look her in the eyes. Beautiful eyes, hidden amongst the wrinkles in her face.

Tsila is taken care of, as far as possible, by her neighbors. None of her relatives are left. It is clear that she has to leave but she refuses help. She simply wants to die in her house. I can barely contain my tears. A single food parcel seems so little, but she will enjoy it.

Idyllic lake?
We walk further. Bratslav is a town with ambiance. Although old and dilapidated, the streets are beautiful. We meet friendly, hospitable people. We drive to just outside the town and stop at, what appears to be, an idyllic looking frozen lake. At the lake there is a memorial for the 250 Jewish orphans of Bratslav who were murdered during the Second World War. A Jewish woman from the town tells us what happened here. One evening, in February 1942, the Germans forced all the children to walk two kilometers to the lake outside the town, bare feet, wearing only pajamas. Here they were thrown into the water and pushed under the ice with sticks. None of the children survived the massacre. We look at the ice on the lake, and the incomprehensible horror of the past became visible in our thoughts. And we cry because of sheer helplessness and impotent rage. This place offers no consolation or answers, it only poses questions and causes grief.

The Holocaust in the Ukraine is relatively unknown in the rest of the world. The horrors done to the Jews surpass our imagination. I would prefer to forget what I heard and saw, but that is no option. This memory must be passed on and may never be lost.

Sara van Oordt
Christians for Israel Netherlands

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 Impression of the foodparcel distribution





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