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ICEJ helping vulnerable children and youths-at-risk receive second chance

Who will care for the vulnerable children when their world seems to crumble around them?


Liela (14), Adam (11), Sharon (9) and Yanai (8) are Israeli siblings who have grown up in a home where abuse and violence has dominated their young lives. Their father was abusive and physically violent before he disappeared from their lives, while their mother is a drug addict.

Experiencing this kind of violence and abuse can have a long and wide-ranging impact on these children, which is often displayed in behavioral issues, aggression, delinquency, and poor social skills.

All four children were recently removed from their abusive situation and placed in therapeutic family group homes. Given the complex dynamics clearly on display between the siblings, Leila and Adam were placed together in one home, while Sharon and Yanai were placed in a different home. The homes are within the same area, making it easier for the children to regularly visit each other.

Each therapeutic family group home has loving house parents who serve as an example of what healthy, non-violent communication and intimate family relationships should look like. Although the adjustments are challenging at times, the children can slowly begin to trust again, as they are taken through group therapy sessions and intensive personal therapy. With much love and patience, the non-visible wounds running deep within can gently begin to heal. They have a chance at developing a healthy childhood and growing into loving adults, thereby breaking the abusive cycle.

At the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, we understand the need to provide extra support for these children, since budgets available to care for them are minimal.

“Through our Giving a Future and a Hope fund and the very generous support from our Christian friends in Canada and the United Kingdom, it is a joy to support these vulnerable orphans and virtually orphaned children,” explained Nicole Yoder, ICEJ Vice President for AID & Aliyah.

While not all children living in these family group homes are classified as orphans, either having one or no living parent, or no feasible biological support system, those who do fit these criteria need additional assistance as the biological family provides no safety net.

This being the reality, the giving of our Christian friends meant that when Leila, Adam, Sharon and Yanai’s arrived at their group home, all four children were taken shopping to purchase basic necessaries such as new toothbrushes and towels, warm clothing, pajamas, and shoes. Yanai especially loves his fun fictional character toothbrush.

You can make a real difference in the lives of these vulnerable Israeli children suffering from abuse. By partnering with ICEJ, together we can give them a second chance to be loved and cared for, and have their basic needs supplied. Please give to our Future and Hope program with your best gift today. 

 

Homecare brings a memorable touch to Passover!

Rising early in the morning, ICEJ Homecare nurse Corrie van Maanen carefully planned her visits during the recent days leading up to Passover. She has many precious patients to see and spent time lovingly preparing Passover gifts for those under her care.

These beautiful Spring days are long, as Corrie weaved her way from home to home across Israel.

Each gift package was personally given during an ICEJ Homecare visit, which always includes a cup of tea and a meaningful chat with the elderly and disabled Jewish immigrants she serves!  

“The work of Homecare is done by building relationships,” Corrie explained. “It is a blessing for the ICEJ that we have this work of being welcomed into the homes of these Jewish families, becoming a part of the family, and to be a blessing and a comfort to them.”

Among those receiving the 120 Passover gift packages she prepared this year were a large group of Holocaust survivors, single mothers, the elderly, and those who are sick or suffering from chronic illnesses.

This Passover season, the gift packages included a much-needed food voucher, kosher chocolates, kosher matze (unleavened bread), a notebook and a beautiful card. The notebook proved to be the most popular!

“When I gave them the notebook, I suggested to begin to write their memoirs for their grandchildren or their great-grandchildren, while for those who are alone, I shared the idea to write their thoughts, especially in this challenging time. To commit them to paper, it could help to cope during this stressful time [of the war in Ukraine],” said Corrie.

The beautiful card is an aquarelle made by an artist from Holland living in Israel which reflects the Spring-time almond blossoms, and a singing bird especially added for this season, together with the Scripture in 2 Samuel 22:2 - “The Lord is my rock and my strength and my Redeemer. My God, in Him I trust.”

The cards are a treasured possession for many, with some bursting with curiosity at the kind of card prepared for them each Pesach, while others save them to later reflect upon in lonely times.  

Each year as time draws nearer to the beginning of Pesach and the celebratory Seder meal, there is such a buzz throughout Israeli cities. Everyone is hurrying to do their last-minute preparations like cleaning their homes and cars or doing their grocery shopping until their shopping carts are laden like a mountain!

This observation often reminds Corrie of how the Israelites must have been in Egypt, with everyone bustling around and how they had to go out of the land in haste.  In every generation a person is obligated to regard himself as if he personally had come out of Egypt.

“Against the backdrop of the war in Ukraine, this Passover delivery was a very special and different one” recounts Corrie. “For many new immigrants to Israel, it is their first Passover in the Land of Israel. So many of them too had to leave their land in haste, taking very few belongings to flee to safety in Israel.”

During her pre-holiday visits, Corrie had a brief conversation with an elderly couple who had to leave in such a hurry, with only one suitcase filled with documents and other necessities.

“After a few weeks, they are wondering what they have done by leaving and questioning what lies ahead of them. This too is how the Israelites must have felt as they hurried to leave Egypt and started their journey,” Corrie remarked.

Corrie inspires them by reminding them of the Scripture that the Aliyah from the north will be larger than the exile out of Egypt, using Jeremiah 16:14-15 as her reference.

“You may ask yourself those questions of why you had to leave. But the God of Israel knows where you are and He wants you to be in Israel, because if is fulfilling His Word,” Corrie told them.

Many of those who Corrie regularly visits still have family or friends in Ukraine, and they are concerned for them. During these visits, Corrie sees their veil of sadness as they begin to share their concerns with her.

“It is such a blessing that they have someone who they can trust with their deepest concerns,” said Corrie. “Someone mentioned to me last week that celebrating the holidays is like the cement of Homecare. It is gluing all the work together in relationships.”

Please continue to support the wonderful work of ICEJ Homecare. Through your giving, more elderly and disabled Jews can be comforted and cared for. 


 

Passover gift baskets bring tears of Joy!

As the ICEJ AID team has made their way across Israel over recent weeks delivering Passover gifts to hundreds of Jewish families living in poverty, they have encountered overwhelming needs among all ages in the communities they have visited.

Many of these people were already living below the poverty line before the Coronavirus pandemic struck Israel two years ago. Some also lost their meager incomes due to the many prolonged lockdowns Israel endured since then, pushing them into further economic hardship.

The International Christian Embassy Jerusalem is working closely with local Israeli social workers to identify those hardest hit by the pandemic, so our assistance will enable them to enjoy an extra special Passover celebration this year.

This year we focused on gift vouchers to buy food, as this is the greatest need for most of these struggling families. However, in addition each food voucher was accompanied by Pesach cookies and a set of hand towels, as well as a beautiful Passover greeting card. The card expresses warm holiday wishes from Christians around the world.

During their visit to Beit Shean, our AID team received many compliments on the thoughtfulness of bringing Passover cookies and towels along with the gift card. Shoshana, a social worker in Jerusalem, added that every year people look forward to receiving these Passover gifts.

In the coastal town of Netanya, ICEJ AID assistant Jannie Tolhoek was met by local social workers Yehilla and Heidi, who were overjoyed to receive the Passover gifts for their local families.

“I must admit that I am very touched by the truly significant work that you do,” said Yehilla. “Thank you for your assistance and support of Netanya’s welfare families. May you be blessed with many more years of giving.”

“Thank you so much for all the work you do and for dedicating yourselves to the people in Israel, to give them hope and a brighter future. You are a real example and inspiration,” added Heidi.

Meanwhile in Jerusalem, a local Ethiopian pastor gratefully collected Passover gifts from ICEJ for distribution to needy members of his community.

Before a general distribution in Kiryat Gat, the AID team visited some individual homes to hand over Passover gifts. When they visited Tsakol, who is hearing impaired and living alone, he could not hold back the tears, which gently rolled down his cheeks. He has experienced much pain in his life and their visit brightened his day!

“Even though our visit was short with a small gift, we hope that it will remind him that he is not forgotten” remarked Jannie.

As they moved on to the next home, they found Irafu, a single mother with five daughters. Two are serving in the IDF, the next two are in high school, and her youngest is eight years old. She explained how she has been working many long hours as a cleaner over the years to support her family. However, due to health difficulties she could not keep up the pace any longer. The team also learned that she had recently returned from a visit to Ethiopia to receive medical treatment.

Despite her situation, Irafu was joyful and happy to offer her hospitality to the AID team with a pot of Ethiopian coffee. Recognizing Jannie from a prior visit, she also was quick to express her faith that God is with her.

“Your greatness and strength have helped me in the past and now you are here again,” said Irafu. “You helped me then with a gift voucher and a beautiful greeting card. You have not forgotten me. It shows that you care for me, and it brings me joy for the holidays. Thank you for your kindness to me and my girls.”

“One could sense that, despite the difficulties, there is a lot of laughter, joy and hope in this home,” Jannie commented afterwards.

There was much excitement in the air when Jannie later arrived at a community center in Kiryat Gat for the general Passover distribution to dozens of needy families. Ethiopian ladies happily helped the AID team carry items from the car into the venue where everyone was waiting. Community leader Avraham Abouya welcomed everyone and explained the long connection he has had with the ICEJ, which he considers part of the “family.” Jannie responded that, indeed, the ICEJ has been helping the Ethiopian Jewish community in Kiryat Gat for 26 years now.

As the holiday gifts were handed out, Avraham explained to the community that their holiday gift came from Christian friends all around the world who care for them and wish them a ‘Happy Passover.’

“Thank you, ICEJ, for reaching out again this year to the Ethiopian community in Kiryat Gat. Without your dedication and faithful support, Pesach is not the same. We hope to see you again next year,” Avraham assured.

Before long, the ICEJ AID vehicle was laden with Passover gift packages again and headed south to rendezvous with eagerly waiting Israeli social workers in Ashdod and Sderot. Nicole Yoder, ICEJ Vice President for AID & Aliyah, was grateful for the many hands ready to help her unload the vehicle!

Speaking with the social workers, she heard how the local needs have increased this year and the difference these holiday gifts from the Christian Embassy will make for many families. This Passover, social welfare departments are especially strained as they are also having to look for help for the many Ukrainian immigrants arriving in their cities with next to nothing on the eve of the holiday.

“It is such a privilege for us to extend love and comfort by giving these Passover gifts. May these families truly feel the warmth and love of Christians as they celebrate this special Pesach holiday,” remarked Nicole as she handed over the gift packages to the social workers for the respective families under their care.

Only with your generous giving can we help these Jewish families have a blessed and wonderful Passover celebration, turning their tears into gladness!  

 

Help Ukrainian Jews Reach Safety in Israel

For more than six weeks now, the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem has been assisting Israel to take in a massive wave of thousands of Jews uprooted by the brutal war in Ukraine. We need your help to bring more of these endangered Jewish families to safety in Israel, and to assist those already here with the long process of integrating into Israeli society.

The ICEJ has been involved at all stages of the current surge in Aliyah from Ukraine, from helping to field the first phone call by potential immigrants on a special emergency hotline for Ukrainian Jews, to transport, temporary housing and flights on their way to Israel, and finally to help them get settled in the Land.

So far, over 7,000 Jewish war refugees from Ukraine have arrived in Israel in just a few weeks. Thousands of Russian Jews have fled to Israel as well, driven out by the sinking economy and loss of freedoms there.

Many of the ICEJ’s efforts to help with this urgent wave of immigration are being done through our support of the Jewish Agency for Israel, which is supervising the overall Aliyah operation. This includes our sponsoring of flights for 620 of the new immigrants to date. Our remaining efforts are being carried out in cooperation with other partners on the ground in Ukraine, in nearby countries, or in Israel.

One special operation we have undertaken is to evacuate Holocaust survivors from besieged cities in Ukraine and bring them safely to Israel as quickly as possible. Working with a courageous rescue team in Ukraine, the Christian Embassy has helped to extract over 60 Holocaust survivors and counting. Through our European branch offices, we also have delivered several tons of relief aid to Jewish war refugees in Warsaw, Poland. And the ICEJ has handed out welcome baskets to hundreds of Ukrainian Jewish families who have already reached Israel.

Normally, Jewish families making Aliyah have time to plan out their move to Israel. But the fighting in Ukraine has forced thousands of Jews to make hasty life-and-death decisions, often while on the run. They have arrived in Israel with very little, and many had to leave their husbands and fathers behind while the war is still on.

After landing at Ben-Gurion Airport, these new Ukrainian immigrants are being placed in hotels or moving in with relatives while local municipalities prepare more permanent housing for them. But soon enough they will have to fend for themselves, learn the Hebrew language, and try to find jobs to support their families.

We want to be there for these newcomers to Israel, who had to flee a horrific war with so few possessions and now must make their way in a new country. We are especially concerned for the dozens of Holocaust survivors who we have helped to escape the fighting in Ukraine but are now dependent on others as they seek to live out the remainder of their lives here in Israel. Please help us care for their special needs going forward.

At the same time, Israel is preparing to launch its planned airlift of some 3,000 Ethiopian Jews, with the first flights hopefully arriving over the Passover holidays next week. The ICEJ has committed to assisting JAFI with this important Aliyah operation as well.

We are only able to carry out all of these Aliyah efforts because of caring Christians who understand the opportunity we have to assist desperate Jewish families in their time of need. So, please consider a generous gift towards our urgent Ukrainian Aliyah efforts.

 

ICEJ Shelters those whose motto is to ‘never leave one behind’

The painful reality of trauma caused by war or terror attacks is that it never ends when the battle is over. For so many people the post-traumatic stress lingers, often invisible to others.

In Israel, there are thousands of people suffering from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) which impacts their daily functioning. For some, this trauma is so severe that coping with life is an enormous battle. And their frustration only increases when others cannot understand them.

For the brave Israeli military veterans suffering from the traumatic experience of war, visiting a rehabilitation center in southern Israel is a source of strength, hope and comfort. Mutual support for each other is valued in this desert oasis near the Gaza border. Within the community of some 100 IDF veterans served there, many form unbreakable bonds. The oldest veteran receiving support at the center served in Israel’s 1973 Yom Kippur War.

The therapy they receive includes training and emotional support dogs. Construction of a new kennel is now underway so the dogs can be permanently based onsite. In addition, 24/7 support and short-term stays in a protective environment help ease the loneliness and severity of the PTSD symptoms. Therapy can range from a few weeks to several years.

However, with Israel surrounded by hostile neighbors who regularly rain down rockets from across her borders, feelings of comfort and peace can be quickly shaken when emergency sirens go off and one must scramble within seconds into a nearby shelter. Just imagine the revisited trauma and panic they must feel being in a treatment facility which has not had a shelter to protect them.

Thankfully, this is a need we could do something about! Due to the generosity of Swiss donors, this rehabilitation center now is equipped with both indoor and outdoor protected spaces to run to when the alarm sirens sound. ICEJ Aid staff recently attended an inspiring dedication of these two shelters – one an outdoor shelter and the other an indoor shelter built into an inner room near where the private therapy sessions take place.

At the shelter delivery, it was evident just how deep these ‘transparent’ scars run. As the big crane hoisted the shelter from the truck, a young man standing there observing all that was being done shuddered and panicked at random moments. He later explained that he suffers from PSTD due to his IDF service during the 2014 Operation Protective Edge. Since then, he explained, different sounds affect him, and the simple rattling sound of the crane’s security chains caused this physical reaction. Since the war, he struggles to integrate with the world in a normal way but feels at peace at the PTSD center.

During the dedication ceremony, several veterans shared their experiences. One, a father of three, spoke in swift, somewhat nervous speech as part of a therapeutic process, explaining the injuries he suffered from a roadside bomb near Bethlehem in 2004. He has not been able to function and get back into the routine of life and work ever since. Yet, his gentle love for his family and friends was evident to all.

Others voiced their pain through song and art. The following poems communicate some of their shared experiences - the relived traumas reviewed endlessly in the mind and the sleepless nights…


Short Musings/Poems from Elazar Finkovitz:

Like a trickle
that defies thresholds
and slowly seeps into the bottom of the well
hidden in the depths of the earth…
So, the thoughts disturb
the capillaries of the soul
and slowly devour every good
part of sanity

****

Between shards of sleep
That yearn to crystallize
And the bursts of wakefulness
That seek to fade…
Stand the body and the soul
That desire with all their strength
To choose
Either here or there.

The path to healing looks different for each one. Another gentleman began using art/sculpture by turning rocket shards into items of beauty as a means of finding peace to overcome the turmoil inside. Children attending the ceremony were kept well-amused by his skilled metalwork as he magically transformed metal forks into fun animals for them.

“When we heard about the need in this rehabilitation center, we knew right away that this was a project we wanted to be involved with,” noted Nicole Yoder, ICEJ Vice President for AID and Aliyah. “Israel lives in a ‘tough neighborhood’ which requires that she constantly be on guard. This never-ending need to stand on guard is wearisome, with many lives lost and many wounded. Those with wounds that cannot be seen often struggle alone without adequate support. This center is working hard to change that reality. Providing these shelters is our way of supporting them. We want them to know – ‘We see you. You are not alone. We appreciate all you have done to protect us and Israel’.”

With much appreciation, Moar Mintz, CEO of this Eshkol-based trauma center for veteran soldiers expressed his initial surprise at receiving help from Christians.

“It isn’t expected to have Christian friends around the world supporting our communities,” he said. “It is always shocking to hear where all the help is coming from. It is something that we never expect, and it really fills our hearts with gratitude for all our dear friends abroad.”

“We are 7.5 km from the border with Gaza and suffer a lot of mortars and rockets from Gaza,” added Maor. “About six months ago a rocket landed in the yard. This makes it difficult to build a safe place for people suffering from PTSD. Thanks to this amazing donation we were able to turn one of our regular rooms into a bomb shelter and make this place safe for people to come here no matter when, no matter what the situation around here. And this is something amazing for people for whom their main effort is to get out of their house.”

“These attacks are a daily reality,” he continued. “It is important to understand that the government will fund shelters only for a certain distance from the border with Gaza. And we are standing in a place where the line goes right through the middle of the settlement. So, one house will get a bomb shelter and another house 200 meters away will not. That is where this amazing help of our Christian friends all over the world is tremendous. It is the difference for entire families living in safety and harmony or not. And it is all thanks to you.”

Your support gives hope to so many Israelis. Please continue to give to the ICEJ’s Israel in Crisis fund, so that many more lives can be protected by portable bomb-shelters placed in vulnerable communities. 

 

ICEJ Welcomes Ukrainian Jews with Gift Packages

Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem and its regional representatives have been assisting hundreds of Ukrainian Jews at all stages of their Aliyah journey to Israel, which includes caring for them after their arrival in the Promised Land.

Many of the Ukrainian Jewish families coming to Israel have had to leave their homes without any advance planning, only taking a few items and little-to-no money. This urgent wave of new immigrants is largely an Aliyah of women and children. As they leave the country to seek refuge in Israel, they are leaving behind the men of their household who are often the providers and backbone of the family. In this time of grief, anxiety and uncertainty, we want to extend a helping and loving hand to them on behalf of Christians around the world.

Last week, our ICEJ team visited the Nes Harim Field and Forest Education Center, a complex in the Judean foothills west of Jerusalem, where we delivered gift packages for some 90 children who arrived early in the war from a Ukrainian Jewish orphanage in the city of Zhitomir. They are either orphaned or only have a single parent, and were greeted at Ben-Gurion Airport by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett himself.

Pnina Zubarev, an ICEJ staff member originally from Ukraine, joined our AID team as they went to deliver gifts to the Ukrainian Jewish orphans.

“What a privilege it is for me to be able to participate in packing and handing out gifts to these Ukrainian children arriving in Israel” shared Pnina.

The ICEJ team first met with a group of teenagers, and then with the younger children.

“You know, it’s a foreign country, it’s foreign people and they don’t know anyone here,” remarked Pnina. “But as I started talking with them, suddenly they heard the language that they know without any accent and were so happy. The children went from being closed and distant, to being open, happy and willing to talk.”

When it came time to distribute the gifts to the children, some even asked if they could hug the ICEJ staff.

“It seems that maybe the hug was also like a present for them because they are orphans, and they really need it”, said Pnina.

The children also were amazed at the size of the toys and games given to them.

“I was overwhelmed as I watched the expressions of sadness turn to happiness and joy on the faces of the children as they received their gifts,” expressed Pnina.

One little girl was pushing a stroller, with a stone and a piece of wood in it. When Pnina asked her why she had a stone and stick in her stroller, and not a doll, she replied: “My doll is at home where the war is!” So she was very excited when Pnina told her would receive a doll as a gift!

Each gift came with a beautiful ICEJ greeting card expressing words of comfort in the Ukrainian language stating: “We are so sorry for the tragic loss and unjust suffering which has come so suddenly to your lives. May this gift from Christians around the world be an encouragement and help to you as you establish your lives afresh here in Israel. May you flourish here and find new hope and a good future.”

All the children learned that their gift was given to them with love from Christians around the world. They cheerfully responded by saying, “Toda Raba, ICEJ!” (“Thank you, ICEJ!”)

In addition, the Christian Embassy has been providing aid packages to hundreds of other Ukrainian Jewish youths who have recently arrived in Israel, some ahead of their parents. These packages are stocked with the necessary items such as sheets, towels, toiletries, vouchers for clothing, household items and a beautiful card with a blessing in Ukrainian.

“It is really exciting to be able to welcome these new immigrants and support them by providing very basic and useful items that everyone needs”, shared Nicole Yoder, ICEJ Vice President for AID and Aliyah. “Despite the heavy hearts and the worry that weighs on them, it is beautiful to see their smiles when they realize that friends around the world are thinking of them and have made this gift package especially for them. It also fills us with joy to be able to do something tangible to help them.”

So far, the ICEJ has been able to provide some gift packages for 230 Ukrainian Jewish children and their families, and distributions are planned for hundreds more. With your support we can help many more of these new immigrant children and families in their hour of need!

Meanwhile, our ICEJ-Finland branch has just delivered two trucks of relief aid requested by the Chief Rabbi of Warsaw to help the local Jewish community care for scores of Ukrainian Jewish refugees who have taken shelter with them. The trucks were full of sleeping bags, warm clothing, items for babies, toiletries, air mattresses, medications, and food. It was their second delivery of such relief aid to the Warsaw Jewish community in recent weeks. Similar relief aid missions to Warsaw are being planned by ICEJ-Germany and ICEJ-Norway.

Please partner with us in these endeavors by giving your best gift today to help Ukrainian Jews uprooted by war as they seek a new life in the Land of Israel. The cost for a gift package for children is US $100, and US $350 for other welcome packages.

Let us unite in our efforts to bring comfort and love to these newly arriving Ukrainian Jews.

 

ICEJ Welcomes more Ukrainian Jews, Rescues more Holocaust Survivors

As the current wave of Ukrainian Jewish war refugees making Aliyah to Israel continues, an ICEJ team was at Ben-Gurion Airport on Thursday evening to welcome our latest sponsored flight of 97 new immigrants coming from all across Ukraine. The flight arriving from Warsaw was once again mostly filled with women, children and the elderly, as the fighting-aged men must stay behind to help defend the country.

Over the past five weeks since Russia’s invasion, over 9,000 Ukrainian Jews have filed applications to immigrate to Israel, and nearly 8,000 of them have already arrived in Israel. So far, the ICEJ has sponsored temporary housing and Aliyah flights for 620 of the new arrivals through the Jewish Agency for Israel.

This latest ICEJ-sponsored flight included Jewish families coming from Kharkiv, Mariupol, Kyiv, Odessa and many other embattled cities all across Ukraine.

As the new immigrants came off the plane last night, our ICEJ team spoke to several Ukrainian Jews about their difficult journey to Israel. One mother and daughter said they had spent several weeks fleeing from Kharkiv, a hard-hit city near the Russian border, all the way over to Poland. While crossing the entire country on their own without a vehicle, they had to find refuge in one town after another. But they were very happy to finally be in Israel, where they would start out at an absorption hotel in Rishon LeZion and eventually settle in Netanya.

While delivering gift parcels to Ukrainian Jewish immigrants at an absorption center in northern Israel this week, our Vice President for Aid & Aliyah Nicole Yoder said one newcomer told her: “There’s probably no other place in the world we could have gone and felt the sense of family when we landed here. At the airport, people greeted us with signs saying, ‘Welcome home!’ And we have truly felt at home.”

Also on Thursday, our Israeli charitable partner Shimon Sabag of Yad Ezer L’Haver joined us for the ICEJ’s weekly webinar to give his first-hand accounts of our joint efforts to rescue Holocaust survivors from the fighting in Ukraine.

In the weeks before the war, Shimon was in Ukraine setting up a hospice center to serve aging Holocaust survivors. So, he already had a team on the ground in Ukraine when the war broke out, and they quickly shifted to rescuing elderly Jews from the worst hit areas. The ICEJ agreed to sponsor this effort and have seen them accomplish amazing feats in the weeks since. As most people were trying to flee the fighting, this rescue team has been courageously going into some of the most dangerous areas to bring out Holocaust survivors and their families to safety.

“You do not see it fully on television, but some of these cities are completely leveled,” Shimon told our webinar audience. “When we got to Mariupol, there was no water, no electricity, no heating, it was -4 degrees, and we saw crowds of people who were just shivering in the cold. But when we were able to extract the Holocaust survivors, it was an incredible feeling. I have worked with the Christian Embassy for 13 years now, and you guys do a great job. And make no mistake, together we rescued these people from certain death.”

“Many times, we have been under fire,” he added. “Some rockets have hit within 200 meters of us. Yet despite our fears, we did not flinch and felt God protecting us.”

On one rescue mission, the team went into the southern port city of Kherson and brought out several Holocaust survivors just three hours before Russian forces captured the bridge they crossed to enter and exit the city.

They also went to Kyiv to bring out a 91 year-old Holocaust survivor with a serious heart condition and took her to the Israeli field hospital just set up near Lviv, where they were able to diagnose her condition and save her life.

“We have brought so many people across the Polish border, that the border guards there have gotten to know us well,” said Shimon. “They told us that we should slow down some.”

He added that all across Ukraine, his rescue team is now known as “The Unit of the Crazies.” Their daring efforts have even caught the attention of the Israeli and foreign press, with Reuters, BBC, Yediot Ahronot, Maariv, Israel Hayom, and Israel TV channels 12 and 13 all filing stories on their exploits. But Shimon feels they are on a special mission to help these Holocaust survivors who have already seen enough war and suffering in their lives. And it is our privilege and even duty to support them.

So far, our joint rescue efforts have extracted at least 60 Holocaust survivors and counting from dangerous locations all over Ukraine and brought them to safety in neighboring countries, where most have continued on to Israel with other family members. Many of these Holocaust survivors are disabled and immobile, and they have needed wheelchairs and even stretchers to get them into a van or ambulance for extraction. So, the ICEJ has even covered the expenses for a special ambulance to handle those in the frailest conditions.

Please join us in our efforts to assist with the massive wave of emergency Aliyah from Ukraine. You can help us bring more Jews from this embattled country safely home to Israel. And you can even help us rescue more Holocaust survivors from the clutches of this brutal war. They urgently need our help, so give your best gift today!
 

 

Passover preparations are underway!

With only a few weeks to go until the biblical holiday of Passover, the ICEJ-AID team is putting in extra work to ensure that this year’s Pesach celebration is a warm and comforting experience for many Jewish families in Israel living below the poverty line. So many of these desperate families were severely impacted by the corona pandemic and are barely making it through each month.

During this special time of the Passover festival, families across Israel will gather around the table for their special Seder meal as they remember their journey from slavery in Egypt to freedom. It is important for each family to have all the symbolic elements which make up their celebratory Seder meal.

This year, the ICEJ-AID vehicle will navigate its way across Israel delivering special Passover care gift packages to families in need located in Jerusalem, Beit Shean, Netanya, Ashdod, Sderot, Kiryat Gat and Ma’ale Adumin. Working together with local Israeli social workers to identify the needs, the AID team will either go from home to home to visit with the families or meet them at a centralized location to present their care gift baskets and wish them well for the Passover holidays.

Last year, the ICEJ team was showered with gratitude as smiles surfaced on the faces of around 550 families receiving their Passover care gifts. A social worker from Ashdod expressed her gratitude, saying: “Thank you so much for this wonderful help! It means a lot for all these families and will give them all a huge smile on their faces and help them to celebrate Pesach with joy and dignity.”

Etti, a social worker from Netanya, remarked: “The ICEJ is making a difference in these lives, not just by the gifts but by reaching out to them yearly and giving such a special touch through this Pesach greeting card, which has a blessing on it.”

A mother receiving her Passover package also commented: “Your gift is something big for me. Your kindness and the beautiful card with those beautiful words have blessed me deeply. I keep looking at it and am deeply grateful! Last week I went to the supermarket and there were great discounts, but I had to walk out again, because I could not afford it.”

Once again this Passover, a beautiful greeting card reflecting a meaningful message of hope and love will be given along with a gift voucher, so that families can buy food for their tables. This year the ICEJ aims to assist at least 800 Jewish families for this unique and very special holiday.

As Passover distributions get underway in the coming days and with many more families needing to be reached with food vouchers and holiday gifts, you too can share your love with these Jewish families through your giving. A gift of US $150 ensures that one needy Israeli family has all the provisions they need to enjoy Passover properly. Your giving helps to create a memorable Passover Seder meal for those in desperate need during this most important Jewish holiday. Please consider making a generous donation to this effort.
 

ICEJ Immersed in Urgent Wave of Ukrainian Aliyah

The brutal war raging in Ukraine is now more than a month old and has uprooted over ten million people from their homes. Some four million Ukrainian refugees have fled west into neighboring countries, including thousands of Jews. The International Christian Embassy Jerusalem is engaged in numerous efforts to help rescue Ukrainian Jews out of this conflict and bring them to safety in Israel. We currently are engaged at all stages of this emergency wave of Aliyah: From extracting elderly Holocaust survivors from their homes in cities under fire, to transporting Jewish families to safety and providing for their immediate needs, to flying them to Israel and helping them get settled in the Land.

Over the past month, over 6,000 Jewish immigrants have arrived in Israel due to this conflict. The majority of them have fled the fighting in Ukraine, while hundreds have left Russia and many more are expected due to the sharp economic downturn caused by Western sanctions. Another 7,000 Ukrainian Jews are presently waiting in Eastern Europe for Aliyah flights to Israel, while more Russian Jews are seeking a way out of a country that has started to close its borders.

The ICEJ is providing funds to the Jewish Agency For Israel to assist with the entire evacuation and Aliyah process for Ukrainian Jews, including the expenses of bus transport out of the war zone, temporary shelter in neighboring countries, any necessary medical attention, the flights to Israel, and the urgent integration needs of the new immigrants.

Since we welcomed the first flight of Ukrainian Jewish immigrants three weeks ago, the ICEJ has sponsored transport, housing and Aliyah flights for over 500 of these desperate war refugees coming to Israel. We expect to greet more of our sponsored flights of Ukrainian Jews next week. In addition, the Christian Embassy is assisting JAFI with the integration phase, as these new arrivals will stay for several months in hotels and municipal housing across Israel while they adjust to their new life in Israel.

Besides our support for JAFI’s emergency Aliyah operations in Ukraine, the Christian Embassy and its regional representatives have launched a number of other efforts to help Ukrainian Jews reach Israel. Among these efforts are:

>> Delivering a ton of relief aid requested by the Chief Rabbi of Warsaw to help the local Jewish community care for scores of Ukrainian Jewish refugees who have taken shelter with them while awaiting flights to Israel.

>> Using our emergency call centers for Holocaust survivors in Haifa and Jerusalem to help answer the flood of calls coming to the Jewish Agency’s special hotline for Ukrainian and Russian Jews to inquire about making Aliyah. Several ICEJ staff members who speak the Ukrainian and Russian languages also have volunteered their time at the call center.

>> Delivering aid packages to hundreds of newly arrived Ukrainian Jews in their hotels and temporary housing. The aid baskets include sheets, towels, toiletries, vouchers for clothing and household items, food, and toys and games for the children. Some of the Jewish youths we are assisting with these aid packages arrived in Israel without their parents.

Besides these efforts, ICEJ also is working with an Israeli charitable partner on the ground in Ukraine to evacuate dozens of Holocaust survivors to safety, sponsor their flights to Israel, and assist them once they are here.

The team we are sponsoring has taken on a very dangerous mission, which has caught the attention of the Israeli and international media. They have made repeated journeys into some of the hardest-hit cities and regions in eastern Ukraine – such as Donetsk, Kharkiv, Dnipro and Mariupol – to bring out elderly Holocaust survivors to safety.

These survivors are in their 80s and 90s, and most are in wheelchairs or need walkers. Specially equipped vans and ambulances are often needed to pick up these disabled evacuees. Family members are usually there to help them say goodbye to homes they have lived in their whole lives. And from these cities under fire, it can take several days to reach Poland and Romania for the flights to Israel. Most are coming with some family, but for now it is limited to women and children, as the men between ages 18-to-60 must stay behind to help defend the country. The hope is they will come later.

On Thursday, seven Holocaust survivors were collected from Kyiv and started on the way to Warsaw with some of their relatives. We will be tracking their journey over several days and look forward to welcoming them to Israel next week. Then comes the task of settling them into homes and care facilities where their special needs can be met. No doubt, several will be received into the ICEJ’s unique Home for Holocaust survivors in Haifa.

This surge in Aliyah from Ukraine, Russia and even Belarus is expected to continue over the coming months. The costs to evacuate Ukrainian Jews and then shelter and fly them to Israel is currently averaging about US $1000 per person.

So, please give your best gift today to help support our urgent efforts to evacuate Jews from danger in Ukraine and bring them home safely to Israel.
 

 

Help ICEJ rescue Holocaust Survivors from Ukraine!

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has set off the largest refugee crisis in Europe since World War Two. The intense fighting has already forced nearly three million people to flee the country.

Amid this immense tragedy, the Christian Embassy is working with Israel and the Jewish Agency to bring out thousands of endangered Ukrainian Jews and bring them safely to Israel. So far, we have helped sponsor transport, temporary housing and Aliyah flights for 420 of the approximately 3,000 Ukrainian Jewish immigrants who have arrived in Israel within the past two weeks.

We are especially concerned for Holocaust survivors in Ukraine, who have already seen enough horrors and wars in their lives. So, the ICEJ is putting a special emphasis on extracting Holocaust survivors from all across Ukraine and bringing them to safety in Israel. Currently, we are sponsoring an evacuation team of Israeli and local volunteers on the ground in Ukraine making long and dangerous runs across the country to find and evacuate Holocaust survivors. Many are very elderly and disabled, and have been hunkered down in their homes for weeks, fearing for their lives.

The team is currently working its way through a list of some 75 Holocaust survivors located all over the embattled country, including in far eastern Ukraine, where Russian forces are constantly shelling major cities. One by one, they are being picked up in vans and ambulances and brought to safer areas. Some family members are also coming out with the survivors and will join them in moving to Israel.

Each rescue mission from Lviv in the west takes around four days of driving round-trip, and must navigate numerous checkpoints, roadside wreckage and rockets raining from above. Once the Holocaust survivors reach the western border with Poland, JAFI is expediting their Aliyah process and the ICEJ will be sponsoring their transport, temporary housing in transit, any needed medical care, and their Aliyah flights to Israel. We expect some to start arriving at Ben-Gurion Airport by early next week.

This week, the Russian army’s escalating attacks on Kyiv forced Lilya Vladirovna, now 78, to finally leave the home where she was born during World War Two. She had been locked up in her house alone for over two weeks as the capital city was slowly besieged. Lilya was almost out of food and, due to her difficulty in walking, she has had trouble reaching a safer place in her apartment building every time the sirens wail – which is many times a day.

"From the moment the fighting started, I did not leave the house because that is what we were ordered to do," Lilya told the Israeli news site Ynet. "Every time I heard the alarms, I ran to the stairwell and heard the sound of explosions."

Her son was looking for a way to get her out to safety and learned of the ICEJ-sponsored team rescuing Holocaust survivors from around the country. They picked her up this week and took her on the two-day journey to Lviv, where she was grateful to finally be safe and headed for Israel.

"I was born in Kyiv when the city was constantly bombed,” she added. “My father was killed in battles towards the end of World War Two in fighting alongside the Soviet Union. In my life I never thought the Russian people would attack Ukraine. Now I feel like history repeats itself and even worse."

Meanwhile, the team managed to extricate Holocaust survivors Samuel (94) and Mila Chiporniak (93) this week from Mariupol, where an estimated 2,400 civilians have died in the incessant Russian bombardment of the city. A maternity hospital and now a theatre are among the sites destroyed in the battered coastal town all the way over on the Sea of Azov. Humanitarian convoys trying to bring civilians out of the surrounded city also have come under repeated attack.

As she reached safety in Lviv, Mila was choking back tears when she spoke to an Israeli reporter with Maariv about her ordeal.

“I have no words to express my gratitude. I do not know how these angels from heaven suddenly came to us, I do not know them at all. It is obvious how they risked themselves under heavy fire,” she said. “I thank God for sending me these rescuers.”

Mila and Samuel have now been taken by ambulance across the Polish border on their way to Warsaw, where they will be quickly processed by JAFI and sent on to Israel. Several younger family members will join them, but the fighting-age men must stay to help defend the country.

Other rescued Holocaust survivors are expressing their deep gratitude for this special evacuation effort, as are Israeli officials.

“I want to thank all our friends at the Christian Embassy for your support, your prayers and donations, which are helping us bring more Jews from Ukraine to Israel,” said Ambassador Danny Danon, Israel’s representative at the United Nations, in a special video message to the ICEJ.

Please join us in rescuing more Holocaust survivors and other Ukrainian Jews from the clutches of this brutal conflict. These are survivors who lived through some of the most shocking Nazi atrocities of World War Two, such as the Babyn Yar massacre of over 33,000 Jews in Kyiv in 1941. They are now facing the horrors of war again, and urgently need our help to reach the safety of Israel!
 

 

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