Youth Community

Aid Ukraine

Order Why Israel Resources

Support our ministry

Subscribe newsletter

Israel & Christians Today

Biblical understanding about Israel

October 13, 2015

“Your help is like manna” - Report from East Ukraine

By Marijke Terlouw.. We arrive at a dingy Soviet apartment building in East Ukraine. In the cellar a group of Jews is waiting for us. They are given a food parcel donated by you. They receive this small token of encouragement just before the Jewish New Year 5776 (14 and 15 September, 2015). What will the New Year hold? There is good reason for concern about the situation of the Jews in Ukraine.
I was in Ukraine for just a few days, in September 2015, but they were very intense days. Of all the stories that I heard, one was even more poignant than the other. I spoke with Jews who were preparing to leave for Israel. Jews who didn’t even consider leaving the Ukraine until a few months ago. The situation in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions became too much for them, for different reasons. You see the same thing happening in the regions bordering the war zone – for example, Mariupol – because there too, the war has left its scars.

A report of the refugees’ stories, the help we provide on your behalf and the existing hope.

Food parcels donated by you!



The stories

In a refugee center near Dnepropetrovsk I meet a family from Donetsk. Ludmilla (84), her son Boris, daughter-in-law Tatjana and her grandchildren Kiril and Sofia. They were a bit surly. It is not easy for them to talk about their departure from Donetsk, the war zone. Then Ludmilla starts talking about what happened shortly before she left. “In the center of Donetsk a rebel asked the two Jewish men passing by: ‘Hey Jew, why don’t you pay taxes?’ And then he just shot and killed the two men. I knew one of them.”

Ludmilla, Tatjana, Kiril and Sofia

In the cellar
About fifty people are squeezed together in the cellar underneath the apartment building, somewhere in Zaporozhe. The cellar is small and stuffy, but the walls are gaily painted with Biblical scenes. Koen Carlier tells that it is not easy to make Aliyah. “It is like the Exodus from Egypt. That too was not easy. The people simply had to trust that Moses knew it all. The journey was difficult. Making Aliyah is just like that. Then he added: “you know that ultimately you go to the Land promised by God.”

The cellar in Zaporozhe

A woman gets up to address us. She searches for words for a while, not because she doesn’t know what to say, but because of what she has on her heart. “You come and you help. That is a true gift for us. We stand with empty hands, and I didn’t know what to do next. But you simply help. I want to say to you that your help is like manna to us.”

Alla and Josef
Our conversation barely started, when tears begin to run down Alla’s cheeks. Alla (71) and Josef (70), who fled from Lugansk, now reside in Kiev where they are lovingly cared for by Aliyah field worker Nataliya Krishanovsky. Alla said: “We lost our home twice. The first time was in the Soviet era. They simply took everything, and we were out on the street. And now we have to start all over again.” Alla walks away for a moment and cries. Josef continues: 

“We have no one left there anymore. She wants to go to our daughter in Ashkelon. We built a new house, just before the war. Now there is no work anymore. I had to shut down my business. Me… oh, I don’t really have to go. I’ve got a heart condition. I don’t think it makes any sense for me to leave.” Then Joseph, also, wipes away a tear. Alla continues: “The war came so close. We packed our bags and locked the door behind us. We gave the key to a large family down the street. Now we have to start anew again.”

Alla and Josef

The help

Thanks to you, the Jewish refugees in East Ukraine can be accommodated and fed in a small refugee center in the vicinity of Dnepropetrovsk. This accommodation, normally used during the summer, has twenty rooms and can accommodate approximately fifty persons. Here, the refugees can prepare for their departure from the Ukraine to Israel.

First of all they have to apply for a passport. Next they have to visit the Israeli consulate to obtain al kinds of documents proving amongst others that they have no criminal record and no debts. Only when this – and a lot more – has been taken care of they can leave for Israel permanently.

Christians for Israel joins hands with the Jewish aid organization Hesed in Zaporozhe. The number of people from this region who make Aliyah (left for Israel) has tripled. Hesed especially helps the weak in society: Holocaust survivors, disabled and poor people and the elderly. But in the past months, more and more refugees come knocking on Hesed’s door looking for help that this organization is in fact unable to provide. Director Anatoly Shveld does not want to leave these people in the lurch and is grateful for the help provided by Christians for Israel. Anatoly: “The people left the war zone with nothing and they arrive with nothing. No job, no income and certainly no money for a passport or a bus ticket to the consulate. The people are very grateful for your help. A passport costs approximately eighty euros. It does not seem insurmountable, but for many people it is a whole month’s salary. Just imagine that. And then you help with a passport or a bus ticket. This is real and practical help, and that is how it is felt.” We regularly hire large busses in order to bring Jews from Zaporozhe and Mariupol to the consulate.

Ready to leave for good..

Hessed director Anatoly Shveld and Koen Carlier

The hope

It is still rather chilly when I stand on a small square in Vinnitsa at eight thirty in the morning. This is where the young people gather today to leave for Israel and attend school there and continue their studies. In total there are 84 youngsters who are going to study in Israel and a few families who are permanently leaving for Israel. Aliyah field worker Koen Carlier arranged for a bus to take the large party to the airport. The place is packed with suitcases, shopping bags and many people to wave them goodbye. 

One specific person attracts my attention. He is still young. Most likely he is going to study in Israel. But he is fervently embracing everyone. The farewell of his friends and relatives is emotional. That tough guy says with watering eyes “lehietraot be Jerushalajim”, until we meet in Jerusalem. I sense and observe that this not just a ‘goodbye’ for a long period of time, but maybe forever. But I see that he has plans too, he just radiates this all over. He wants to make something of his life.

Later on the bus, I had a conversation with him. It turns out that he recently finished his studies and is newly married. His wife is sitting next to him and his brother in the row in front of him. They are leaving for Israel permanently. “At school I was actively involved in organizing theatrical and musical performances. That’s who I am. I want to make it to the top and build a future. So, I have already learned the language. I’m really looking forward to it. We go to Eilat for a year to work in the hotel industry. It’s great to be able to start like that and not to be thrown in at the deep end.” That he, his wife and his brother have already found accommodation and employment is because of the Jewish Agency’s many programs to assist the Jews who are leaving for Israel with their new life in Israel. The hotel program in Eilat is one of these programs. Another example is First Home in the Homeland, a kibbutz program for young families that is also supported by Christians for Israel. This program provides five months of accommodation and demands five days a week for a five-hour daily study of the Hebrew language. The residents of the kibbutz in addition also assist the newcomers with whatever they need to carry on after those initial five months. Finally I ask him what he thinks about the Dutch Christians who are helping him with his departure to Israel. After some thought, he answers with determination: “I’m very happy with that. It is really encouraging. People who haven’t met you before and still care about you and just help.”

Radiant faces
At the small airport in Kiev more and more youngsters assemble. All have radiant faces. They are really looking forward to be studying in Israel. Victoria: “I have one year left at school, after which I hope to study guitar at the Academy for Arts. My mother and sister are already in Israel. And grandmother and grandfather (who are there to say goodbye ed.) will be going too in one month’s time.” I asked why she was going. “I know what’s written in Tenach. I know that God has scattered us among the nations and that He will call us together. I would rather go now than being sent later.”

Girl and grandparents at the airport 

Youngsters at the airport

Providing transportation to the Israeli Embassy and airports.
More and more people want to prepare their documents in order to be ready to leave Ukraine and go to Israel. Because of the long distances that people have to travel to reach the embassy in their district, Christians for Israel facilitates their transportation by our own transport or renting small and big busses to drive groups from that area to the Israeli embassy and airports in their region. The average cost for one person is € 135 / US $ 150.

Please support this Aliyah work!

 Donate in €  Donate in $




More news...