A recent Fellowship Freedom Flight took 170 new olim (immigrants) from Ukraine to Israel to begin a new life away from the continued violence and unrest in their homeland. Emmanuel Rosenzweig was the pilot of that flight, and shared with The Fellowship his impressions of that momentous journey.
Last night at midnight I was recruited on short notice for a difficult flight into the night. On my way to Kiev with an empty plane, I asked myself why I had agreed to this strange mission.
After landing, I napped briefly on the empty seats before the passengers were to arrive. A moment after I awoke, with a bit of renewed energy, they began to board: family after family, parents carrying their children on their hips, the children tired and confused.
I stood at the entrance to the cockpit and, together with the crew, greeted the olim. As the parents walked down the aisle to find their seats, the children's faces looked back at me over their mother or father's shoulders with big and beautiful eyes.
I was suddenly overwhelmed by unexpected emotion. This was not just another trip abroad. These were refugees from a region struck with violence and hatred, and they were facing a future that would be better, but also different and frightening. I tried to exude a sense of peace, security, and hope to each person as they boarded.
During the flight preparations, I went down to the parking lot, as I do every time, to examine the outside of the plane. The station manager showed me the carts overflowing with luggage that wouldn’t all fit on the plane, and promised that it would all get on the next flight and arrive in Tel Aviv by the afternoon.
There were no suitcases, only sacks tightly wrapped with plastic. Their whole world, I thought to myself. What are they leaving behind? What are they taking?
As we got closer to take-off I wanted to make an inspiring speech. But I found myself focusing more than ever on my business. At this moment, I felt unworthy. I could not find the words that would match the courage of these families and the immense change they would be facing.
In the intense Ukrainian chill, we took off and soared in the direction of Israel, while a red sun began to rise in the east. We penetrated the layers of low clouds, and quickly the shades of the muddy snow we left beside the runway were replaced by an intense purple and then a deep, clear blue.
At that moment my excitement turned into an immense sense of pride at my own part, even if simply technical, in the bridge that the people of Israel have created for the olim, so that they will have a better future.
I then understood why I had taken on this flight.
Good luck to you, new olim. My hope for you is that as quickly as possible you will identify as Israelis.