Finnish Christians are celebrating 25 years of aiding former Soviets interested in moving to Israel to fulfill their dreams, The Times of Israel reported. A flight of immigrants to Israel earlier this month marked the anniversary, and another is scheduled for April.
Howard Flower is the director of aliyah for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ). He explained that the Finnish Route, as it is known, began operating in 1990, primarily to alleviate the congestion of more typical paths to the south, as roughly one million immigrants made their way to the Jewish homeland.
Based in St. Petersburg, Flower now coordinates the logistics connected to the Finnish Route, along with the volunteers of the Finnish Exodus Committee, or Neliapila.
Approximately 20,000 people have made aliyah, which is the Hebrew term for moving to Israel, via the Finnish Route since the program was started by Ulla Jarvilehto, a Finnish former lawmaker and gynecologist.
Immigrants arrive by bus from neighboring Russia and, after spending a couple days in the homes of Christian volunteers, continue from Finland to Israel through Scandinavian countries.
Although the original purpose of the Finnish Route no longer applies, with Russian aliyah rates now at a more manageable 4,000 to 6,000 per year, some 100 still opt for the experience. Flower, who has been involved in the aliyah process since 1989, called the Finnish Route a “soft landing”, because immigrants “can stay in a friendly environment in the beautiful Finnish countryside for a few days before proceeding.”
He added, it “also provides a backup option in case turmoil breaks out in Russia or a nearby country, similar to what happened in Ukraine.”