Yesterday morning (Monday), a flight carrying 111 new immigrants from Ukraine was welcomed by Ministry of Aliyah and Immigration staff at the special olim lounge at Ben Gurion Airport. Tuesday’s flight was the largest sponsored by the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (The Fellowship) since the outbreak of the coronavirus crisis. “I am so glad to come to Israel and have been waiting for it for a long time. Medical care in Israel is on another level and especially in times of corona, this is paramount,” said Vadym Sergiyenko, 57, who made aliyah alone. The new olim include 21 children, of whom 14 are under the age of 10. The youngest oleh is a baby boy only 8 months old, while the oldest on this flight is an 89-year-old woman.
The olim who landed today were meant to arrive in Israel in March. However, as coronavirus spread in Ukraine, the government closed their airspace and tightened their borders. Despite this, The Fellowship managed to coordinate a rescue flight with the Ukrainian government to finally allow the olim – who had already sold their homes and left their jobs with the intention of making aliyah, and had been waiting two months – to make the trip to Israel.
One such couple is Olena (45) and Roman (50) Kravets and their daughter Mariia (11) who lived in the city of Donetsk. Olena was a government worker in Ukraine. “On our last visit to Israel, we experienced a great sense of solidarity from the people living in the country. At this time in particular, this is the most important thing, unity among people. Thanks to these values we can get through this crisis and we are convinced that these values exist among the people of Israel. ”
Vadym Sergiyenko (57) from the city of Odessa plans to move to Ashdod immediately after completing the quarantine period. “I’ve been waiting to make aliyah to Israel for a long time,” he said. “For many years, I did not feel that I lived where I could be proud of my Judaism. With the coronavirus crisis, I feel that the conduct in Israel is more responsible. I heard there’s a heatwave in Israel, but I’m not worried. I prefer to live in a warm place with warm people.”
The new olim who landed in Israel will follow the Health Ministry’s instructions of full isolation for 14 days. Assuming there is no change in their health, the olim will be allowed to move into their permanent housing and begin their absorption process in Israel at the end of the quarantine period.
In recent weeks as international travel restrictions have begun to relax, requests to make aliyah among the countries where The Fellowship operates have increased 20%. This is in addition to the existing backlog of requests after aliyah flights were delayed for two months and immigration visas were suspended due to office closures.
The first case of the coronavirus in Ukraine was discovered in late February in the western part of the country. It is currently the region with the highest number of infections. Many residents of the region work outside the borders of Ukraine in various European countries. They were among the first to contract the virus and brought it into Ukraine upon their return. Since mid-March, the state has been isolated, while the situation is expected to continue until at least the end of May. As of May 18, a total of 18,616 infections were discovered in Ukraine. Of these, 325 have died.
Immigration Minister MK Pnina Tamano-Shatah welcomed the 109 new olim from Ukraine who landed this morning in Israel: “Welcome to Israel! Every aliyah is a reason for celebration. The return of Jews from all over the world is a symbol of unity of the Jewish people of Zion. I was privileged to begin my post as the Aliyah and Immigration Minister with the arrival of 109 new olim from Ukraine. Along with them, I am excited to begin the Israeli-Zionist journey with concern for their optimal absorption and unconditional well-being. Aliyah is building this country, and so it was and will continue to be on my watch. Welcome back! ”
Fellowship President and CEO, Yael Eckstein, continued: “This is a challenging time for the entire world and the Jewish world in particular. Despite the difficulties and despite the situation, The Fellowship continues to work hard for the benefit of continued aliyah activities. I wish a great deal of success to the Aliyah and Immigration Minister Pnina Tamano-Shatah who took office this week and was entrusted with a post that is challenging, but especially important to the global Jewish community and its relationship with Israel.”
The Fellowship has been working in full cooperation with the Ministry of Aliyah and Immigration for more than 25 years helping Jews make aliyah, and has invested more than $200 million in bringing over 750,000 olim to Israel. The Fellowship has also been a major contributor to the Jewish Agency and helped to establish the Nefesh B’Nefesh organization.
In 2014, The Fellowship began operating independently in the field of immigration. Since then, it has brought more than 23,000 olim to Israel from 30 countries around the world. The olim receive comprehensive assistance from The Fellowship, including special grants of $500 per adult and $300 per child. The Fellowship also sponsors their flights to Israel and ensures that they receive the klitah (resettlement) assistance that they need. Additionally, The Fellowship helps immigrant families with housing and employment and continues to advise them as they become accustomed to life in Israel.