A Historic Aliyah
January 06, 2015
Dear Friend of The Fellowship,
On the occasion of the first of two historic Fellowship aliyah flight from Ukraine, I was privileged to say to a planeload of more than 200 Ukrainian Jewish refugees, “Shalom, and welcome to Israel. ‘This is the day the Lord has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it’” (Psalm 118:24). It’s written in Psalm 126:1: “When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dreamed.” It was indeed like a dream, and very exciting to be there on this occasion.
I want to take this opportunity to say “thank you” to our partners in Canada over the past eleven years who have contributed tens of millions in support of Israel and the Jewish people. We are so fortunate to have you, Christian and Jewish supporters of Israel, who are always ready to help.
At the welcoming ceremony for Israel’s newest immigrants, I also spoke some more words from the Torah. Why are we called Jews after Judah? We should have been called Reubenites after Reuben, who was Jacob’s first born. The answer, I told the assembled crowd, is in this week’s Torah portion. When Judah’s brother was in trouble, Judah said, “I myself will guarantee his safety; you can hold me personally responsible for him” (Genesis 43:9). All Israel is responsible for each other as guarantors. Now we not only have Jews who are responsible for each other; what is historic is that we also have Christians who believe in us and who want to embrace us with love.
A year ago I was in Ukraine, where I am often, in Donetsk and Lugansk. I was there in the summer when Jews fled their homes. I saw fear and despair in the eyes of the refugees. They didn’t know if they would return to their homes. They left without coats, without anything. They were literally refugees. This was the first time since World War II that Jews fled their homes with nowhere to go. During the year, The Fellowship took care of them. We opened camps for the Jews in Zhytomir and other places. During the year, we fed and provided them with medicines.
At that time I went to them and said, “There’s no such thing as a Jewish refugee. As long as we have Israel and God protecting us, there’s no such thing as a Jewish refugee.” We spoke with the refugees and told them to come to Israel. I told them that we want them and promised to welcome them with warmth and love, and invited them to come and start new lives in Israel.
There is a lesson here. Instead of despair, there’s hope. As is written in the Bible – “So there is hope for your descendants,” declares the Lord. “Your children will return to their own land” (Jeremiah 31:17). May it ever be so.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
President and Founder, International Fellowship of Christians and Jews® of Canada