The International Christian Embassy of Jerusalem (ICEJ) has stepped in to help facilitate the immigration and absorption of Ukrainian Jews who wish to escape the violence and anti-Semitism that has become rampant in the country.
In the aftermath of the recent Crimean conflict, anti-Semitism is on the rise in the Ukraine and Jews are getting scared. “It is a bad situation right now for Jews in the Ukraine,” David Parsons, media director for the ICEJ, told Breaking Israel News. “We are working very hard and very quickly to try to bring as many of them to Israel as we can.”
The ICEJ was approached by the Jewish Agency approximately six weeks ago with an urgent request to help sponsor flights from Ukraine for Jews wanting to leave the region.
“We have been raising funds since then. So far we have raised enough to facilitate the immigration of approximately 100 Jews,” explained Parsons.
The Jewish Agency has been expecting an increase in immigration from the Ukraine in light of recent events over the last few days, as anti-Semitic acts have been continuously on the rise since the conflict, with a dramatic spike over the weekend. “It is getting very dangerous for Jews over there,” said Parsons.
Parsons relayed that the reason the Jewish Agency called upon the ICEJ is that they have maxed out their allotted yearly budget for immigration from the region and that the ICEJ has been a long time partner of the Agency in bringing Jews from former Soviet countries to Israel. Since 1989 the ICEJ has been involved in helping to bring over 115,000 Jews to Israel including 42,000 from the Ukraine, with majority from the former Soviet Union.
“They know they can call on us when they have extra people they weren’t expecting,” said Parson proudly. “We’ve helped with Ethiopian and Yemenite immigration, and we are helping Israel Returns with the immigration of the Bnei Menashe Jews from India. We have brought over 500 Bnei Menashe Jews already and we are paying for the flights of another 250 Bnei Menashe in about 3 weeks time, with another 500 expected by the end of the year.”
The ICEJ has had a long partnership with Jewish Agency being involved in both locating Jewish communities and helping them to immigrate. When Parsons was asked why the ICEJ’s involvement with Jewish immigration to Israel is not widely spread in the press he answered: “There is aliyah [Jewish immigration to Israel] going on all the time but it makes more news when it is escaping economic downturn or anti-Semitism as it is now. The Jewish Agency decides who makes aliyah, but they know that they can turn to us to help with flights and transportation when they need to.”
The numbers clearly speak for themselves. The 115,000 Jews the ICEJ has helped make aliyah is approximately 10% of total immigration over the last 25 years from the former Soviet bloc.
Parsons reflected on the ICEJ’s first sponsored flight of former Soviet Jews in 1989 when the Soviet Union fell. “We helped sponsor the first flight ever. The Jewish Agency opened the first route of Immigration through St. Petersburg and our branch in Finland helped make that flight happen.”
When asked why the ICEJ takes such an important role in Jewish immigration to Israel, Parsons said: “We believe in the Jewish return to the Land of Israel, as God keeping his promise for the Jews to return to the land. The passages in Isaiah 49, which mentions gentiles helping Jews return to the land of Israel, is very real for us. We are fulfilling a prophecy in a positive way, and we are trying to change Christian-Jewish relations, especially when Jews are endangered.”
At the time of this interview, 19 immigrants from Ukraine as well as others from Russia were landing and being processed at Ben Gurion airport after fleeing their countries for fear of their lives. “In spite of the differences in their countries, the immigrants share a certain bond in their Jewishness that bridges their differences and the tension,” Parsons said.
One of the newest olim [immigrant], Daria Granovsky, a Jewish single woman working on a marketing degree, expressed her thanks and excitement over her life-changing journey.
“I have been to Israel several times to study and visit with family and friends, but I knew it was time to come to stay. And I’m very happy to be here now because of the growing crisis in Ukraine,” said Granovsky. “There has not been much violence yet where I live in Kiev, but the troubles are getting worse and worse every day and you could sense it was coming our way.”
In addition to the help provided to the Jewish Agency, the ICEJ has also been partnering with Israel Returns director Michael Freund over the past two years with the aliyah of Bnei Menashe Jews from India. Believed to be members of Israel’s lost tribes, the Bnei Menashe have been vigorously completing religious processes that would enable them to return to Israel under the Law of Return. Until completion, private funding is the only means to bring these lost Jews back to their homeland.
“Michael asked us to help out, so we did,” Parsons said. Israel Returns is trying to create a process by which the immigration of the Bnei Menashe happens much more smoothly and therefore have approached private funders such as the ICEJ. “We are happy to sponsor the Bnei Menashe in any way we can. We are expecting another 500 Bnei Menashe by the end of the year and we are very excited about it,” Parsons added.
When it comes to the situation in the Ukraine, Freund and his organization have been working tirelessly to assist Ukrainian Jews in any way possible. “The situation in the Ukraine continues to deteriorate daily as the risk of civil war and Russian military intervention continues to mount,” Freund told Breaking Israel News. “Ukraine’s Jews find themselves in an increasingly dire situation and it is essential that every effort be made to evacuate them before it is too late. I applaud the ICEJ for stepping up to play an active role in this rescue operation. The prophet Isaiah (49:22) foretold that the nations of the world would carry the Jewish people back to Zion – and that is precisely what we are witnessing now”.