A flight carrying 111 Olim (immigrants) from Ukraine was welcomed by Ministry of Aliyah and Immigration staff at the Ben Gurion Airport on Tuesday, the largest group sponsored by the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews since the outbreak of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis.
The group included 21 children, of whom 14 are under the age of 10. The youngest Oleh is a baby boy 8 months old, while the oldest on this flight is an 89-year-old woman.
The Olim will enter full isolation for 14 days, as prescribed by the Health Ministry.
Immigration Minister Pnina Tamano-Shatah stated that “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.”
This group of Olim was meant to arrive in Israel in March. However, as Coronavirus spread in Ukraine, the government closed its airspace and tightened its borders. The IFCJ was successful in arranging a flight to enable the Olim, who had already sold their homes and left their jobs with the intention of making Aaliyah, to make the trip to Israel.
Olena Kravets, 45, who came with her husband Roman, 50, and daughter Mariia,11, said that on their 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. ”
“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.
He plans to move to Ashdod immediately after completing the mandatory 14-day 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.”
Regarding the Coronavirus crisis, he said he felt that “the conduct in Israel is more responsible.”
Israel is experiencing an unusual and extreme heatwave, but Sergiyenko said he was not worried. “I prefer to live in a warm place with warm people.”
In recent weeks, as international travel restrictions have begun to relax, requests to make Aliyah among the countries where the IFCJ operates have increased by 20%.
The Nefesh B’Nefesh organization, which facilitates Aliyah from North America, reported that throughout April 2020, 455 new Aliyah applications were submitted to the organization, in comparison to 302 in April 2019, and 642 individuals downloaded and began working on their Aliyah applications, in comparison to 417 downloaded applications in April 2019.
May 2020 is showing a similar pattern with an even greater increase.
Fellowship President and CEO, Yael Eckstein, stated that “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.”
The Fellowship has been working in 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.