ICEJ Rising to Challenge of Urgent Ukrainian AliyahPublished on: 18.4.2022
by David Parsons
The Russian invasion of Ukraine in late February set off the largest refugee crisis in Europe since World War II, with over ten million people uprooted from their homes. This has included thousands of Jewish families fleeing cities under intense Russian shelling. In response, the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem is assisting at all stages of the current mass wave of Aliyah from Ukraine, as thousands of Jews are being brought to safety in Israel.
The ICEJ’s involvement in this urgent Ukrainian Aliyah has included:
> Utilizing our call center for Holocaust survivors to field calls on an emergency Aliyah hotline set up for Jews from Ukraine;
> Evacuating Jews, particularly aging Holocaust survivors, from dangerous areas of Ukraine;
> Providing relief aid and temporary housing for Ukrainian Jews who fled to neighboring countries;
> Sponsoring their Aliyah flights to Israel, and
> Assisting these new immigrants with gift baskets, food vouchers and household items once in Israel.
Many of the ICEJ’s efforts are being done through our financial support of the Jewish Agency for Israel, which is supervising the overall Aliyah operation. The rest of our efforts are being carried out by the ICEJ itself, often in cooperation with other partners on the ground in Ukraine, or in nearby countries as well as in Israel.
Normally, Jewish families have time to consider all the decisions that come with making Aliyah, such as when to sell an apartment and where to settle in Israel. But the fighting in Ukraine has forced thousands of Jews to make hasty life-and-death decisions, often while on the run.
For many of these endangered Jews, the process to reach safety in Israel often begins with a call to an emergency JAFI hotline set up early in the war for Jews in Ukraine and Russia wanting to inquire about making Aliyah. In its first month of operation, the hotline received nearly 30,000 calls.
Due to this sudden surge, the national call centers for Holocaust survivors which the ICEJ sponsors in Haifa and Jerusalem were connected to the JAFI hotline number to help handle the high volume of incoming calls.
While many Jewish families knew to call the hotline, others just headed for one of the six JAFI stations set up at border crossings into Poland, Hungary, Romania and Moldova. Once there, the Jewish war refugees have been housed and cared for, vetted for a rapid Aliyah process, and then sent on flights to Israel.
After landing at Ben-Gurion Airport, these new Ukrainian immigrants are being placed in hotels or move in with relatives while local municipalities prepare more permanent housing for them. Meantime, the ICEJ is busy distributing welcome baskets to hundreds of newly arrived families, with a special effort to deliver toys and games to the very disoriented children.
So far, Israel has welcomed more than 7,000 Ukrainian Jewish immigrants in the six weeks since the Russian invasion began. The ICEJ has sponsored Aliyah flights for 720 of these newcomers, with more to come. We also have helped evacuate at least 60 Holocaust survivors from Ukraine and counting, delivered tons of relief aid to Jewish war refugees in Poland through several of our European branch offices, and handed out welcome baskets to hundreds of Ukrainian Jewish families already here in Israel.
Over the following pages, you can learn more about what the Christian Embassy is doing to meet the challenges of this most urgent, massive Aliyah wave in decades. We are able to do all this because of generous Christians who understand the opportunity we now have to assist the Jewish people in their hour of need. So, please give towards our urgent Ukrainian Aliyah efforts.