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Biblical understanding about Israel

August 7, 2017

Rabbi Jacobs in Ukraine (3) – Confusion

Dutch Chief Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs travelled through Ukraine in the first week of July 2017 to help Jews in that area. He did this together with C4I Aliyah fieldworker Koen Carlier. Rabbi Jacobs kept a journal throughout his time in Ukraine. 


‘Tomorrow will be the last day. First we have another two meetings in Kiev, then off to the airport, then we’ll land at home, and then Shabbat: Rest!

Rest? I don’t know. Right now there are so many things going through my head. I’m confused. The joy and the sadness are both wandering around my mind. I’m not talking about the mass graves which are located between Kiev and Odessa, and which Koen kept mentioning on our way: Odessa (30.000), in dozens of towns around Odessa, Uman (25.000, among which thousands of children between three and ten years old), Ladizinka (number unknown), Bella Zerkov (six thousand) and so on. No, my confusion comes from the enormous contradictions. Not between poor and rich, cause I’ve gotten used to that since last Sunday, but the contradiction between the children whom I see playing and the tragedies behind each child. In Odessa we visited two orphanages. To know whether there still are orphanages in my home country the Netherlands, I would have to search on google. I really don’t know. In my youth (I absolutely still feel young…) there was an orphanage near where I lived. Children lived there whose parents had died, that’s what I understood. That orphanage is long gone. But not in Odessa.

It’s impressive how happy the children appear, and beautiful to see how everything has been nicely decorated. Above all, the love that the staff are radiating is indescribable. But then those stories! Only a few of the children we’ve seen are without parents. Almost all of them have parents. But often the father is unknown and the mother is an alcoholic. A mother has given up her baby after only eight days. The pregnancy was unplanned, as they say. Mother was only seventeen. A year later she dropped off another baby, when the baby was three weeks old. Baby number three she brought the following year at two months old.

Each child has a painful history. Alcohol, drugs, abuse, crime…that’s what I thought. But this morning I saw something else with my own eyes. Just as we were led out by Rabbi Wolff, the rabbi of Odessa, a father came in with a child of about ten years old. He raised his hands to heaven and said: take my child, my wife and I can no longer provide for him. Paper were filled out and signed, responsibilities were transferred.

Dear people, this is all happening less than a three-hour flight from my own rich country of the Netherlands, where we are concerned about getting a raise. I’ve completely forgotten the hundreds of kilometres of potholes in the so called highways. I see the brother and sister that were dropped off at the orphanage and are inseparable. I see how the staff snuggles with the children, I see the children who are heavily damaged. And Rabbi Wolf proudly shows us a picture of a student standing under a chuppa in Israel three weeks ago. This radiant bridegroom was dropped off as a baby and Rabbi Wolf officially adopted him, so he could help him. And now this baby, his adopted child, is a grown man standing under the chuppa. That baby is now a bridegroom. He has dark skin because his unknown father was apparently of African descent. Next to him there’s a blond woman, his real mother, whom rabbi Wolff has traced down and has paid for her ticket and taken her to the wedding of her son. Do you understand my confusion?’

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