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Starting a New Life in the Holy Land

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Miryam and Shlomo are a married couple, and they, along with their 2-year-old daughter, Gitel, are settling happily into their new home in the Holy Land. They are new immigrants from Ukraine, and they arrived in Israel on one of The Fellowship's historic Freedom Flights in December 2014.

Shlomo, a musician and sound technician by profession, sang and played at one of the events Rabbi Eckstein attended in Ukraine during the height of the crisis, shortly before his family made aliyah (immigrated to Israel) aboard the Freedom Flight. He remembers the moment when he handed Rabbi Eckstein the microphone and how together they sang “Our Father Lives.” "Three months later," Shlomo excitedly said, "both of us were on the same plane to Israel!”

Now, starting their new lives in the Holy Land, Shlomo and Miryam are shocked by some aspects of Israeli culture. "In the place we come from, one doesn't see elderly on the streets. Nothing is tailored to their needs, and at a certain age, people just shut themselves up in their homes,” Miryam said. “Here in Netanya, and in other places we've been, we see the elderly out and about as they make purchases, travel on buses, and sit in parks. It's heartwarming.”

Shlomo and Miryam also look with awe at some of the residents of Israel who immigrated to the Holy Land years ago and received much less assistance. "People who came from the former Soviet Union 20 years ago had to leave behind all their possessions. Today, thanks to The Fellowship aid we receive, it's completely different,” they said. “It's very helpful to everyone.”

The family still faces some difficulties – Shlomo still doesn't know whether his parents will join them in Israel, and it saddens him to think of his daughter growing up without her grandparents. And the first few weeks were hard for 2-year-old Gitel, who didn’t understand why she was suddenly in an unfamiliar place. During the first month in Israel, she would burst out in tears and ask, "But where is my home? I want to go home." But she has gradually gotten used to it, and is once again a happy child. The comparatively gentle climate and the possibility of spending relatively long hours outside, even in winter, have helped her greatly.

Shlomo and Miryam are very excited about their future in Israel. Miryam attended several Fellowship-funded schools in her youth, and she always dreamed that one day she would make aliyah. And Shlomo felt a connection to the Holy Land the first time he visited the country more than a decade ago. "I opened the window in my hotel room, and Jerusalem's Old City was in front of me. There were stones that were thousands of years old. I was swathed in this mountain air. At that moment I knew that this is the place where I want to live,” he said. “Now, thanks to The Fellowship, we've arrived.”

Tags: Stories , Life in Israel , Partnerships and People

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