Ethiopian Olim

-by David R. Parsons

As air travel restrictions were imposed worldwide over recent months due to the Coronavirus, the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem still has been able to assist 565 new Jewish immigrants in making Aliyah to Israel.

In early February, various nations began to issue entry bans which greatly impeded international travel. Yet even as flights were being grounded everywhere, the Christian Embassy still has succeeded in bringing a total of 450 Russian Jewish immigrants on flights from various parts of the former Soviet republics. Most immediately went into a two-week self-quarantine due to the COVID-19 threat. A flight from St. Petersburg with 26 Russian Jewish olim on March 22 marked the 30th anniversary of the ICEJ’s sponsorship of Jewish Aliyah from the former Soviet Union.

Two days later, the ICEJ sponsored flights for 72 Ethiopian Jews who arrived from Addis Ababa. They were taken to an absorption center in Kibbutz Beit Alfa and entered quarantine for 14 days as well. In addition, the ICEJ funded Passover gift baskets with food, games, learning materials, and other items for these and many other recently arrived Ethiopian Jewish families as part of their integration process during the Passover holidays.

Together with an earlier group of Ethiopian immigrants in February, the ICEJ has now assisted 115 Ethiopian Jews in making Aliyah during the Corona health crisis.

“Despite all the bad news with the Coronavirus, the good news is that Jews are still coming home to Israel”, said ICEJ President Dr. Jürgen Bühler. “It has been amazing to see the strong desire of these Jewish families to make it to Israel, as many even moved up their Aliyah plans despite the requirement of two weeks in self-quarantine. It is our privilege and our calling to help them and all of Israel pull through this difficult time.”

The Christian Embassy also helped dozens of other recent immigrant families through the Passover holidays, providing them with food vouchers and vital assistance as they remained isolated in Jewish Agency centers. They would normally attend ulpan classes and community events, including day camps for the children. But since they could not gather in large groups, we purchased games, crafts, and toys for the children, while also funding small group activities for them.

Meantime, the ICEJ responded to urgent requests for help on behalf of a number of Bnei Menashe, Chinese, and Hispanic Jewish families who arrived in Israel within the past year or so and were struggling due to job layoffs and other economic fallout from the Corona crisis. We were able to provide them with grants and food vouchers to assist the newly unemployed and those in dire need before the Passover holiday.

With Israel soon hoping to gradually lift travel bans and home lockdowns, the Aliyah is expected to quickly resume over the coming months. To begin with, the Christian Embassy is committed to supporting the on-going Ethiopian Aliyah, with another 150 Ethiopian Jews already approved and awaiting their turn to journey home to Israel.

Meantime, there are many more Aliyah applicants from Russia ready to come as the Russian economy is faltering due to the collapse of the ruble, the Corona threat, and the steep drop in world oil prices. The latest reports also indicate a huge wildfire in the forests near Chernobyl is blanketing Kyiv in smoke. Summer is usually the high season for Jewish families moving to Israel, so the children can start the new school year in Israel in the fall. But the situation for many Jewish families in Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus has become urgent, and they are asking to move up their travel plans to reach Israel as soon as they can. So please stand with us by supporting the ICEJ’s Aliyah efforts.

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