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Coming Home to the Holy Land

January 15, 2015

Dear Friend of Israel,

The four French Jews who were killed by an Islamist gunman in a kosher grocery store in Paris – and on the heels of the brutal murder of 12 at the Charlie Hebdo newspaper offices – were buried in Jerusalem this past Tuesday. It was a somber day of personal and collective grief.

Speaking at a ceremony before the funerals, Israeli president Reuven Rivlin spoke to the victims and to the loved ones there to say their final goodbye, “Dear families, Yoav, Yohan, Philippe, Francoise-Michel, this is not how we wanted to welcome you to Israel…this is not how we wanted to see you come home.”

In the same hope of seeing other French Jews make it to the Holy Land alive and well, escaping the rising tide of anti-Semitism in France over the past few years, Prime Minister Netanyahu extended an invitation in his statement at the Grand Synagogue of Paris last weekend: “To all the Jews in France, all the Jews of Europe, I would like to say that Israel is not just the place in whose direction you pray, the state of Israel is your home…All Jews who want to immigrate to Israel will be welcomed here warmly and with open arms.”

Hearing his words, I thought of the 440 Ukrainian Jews The Fellowship recently flew out of harm’s way from their troubled region to a fresh beginning in Israel. Here they will know religious freedom, political stability, and self-determination. These are things they could not have had in Ukraine, that are not a given for many in Europe, and that are tragically absent for countless Jews around the globe.

As I told a group of Ukrainian Jews during the months of planning prior to our two Freedom Flights, “There’s no such thing as a Jewish refugee. As long as we have Israel and the IDF soldiers who protect us, there’s no such thing as a Jewish refugee.”

In the wake of the attacks in Paris, The Fellowship is exploring ways to help French Jews make aliyah (immigrate to Israel). And we are only able to offer this lifeline thanks to you, our faithful Fellowship friends. Your generosity and support are a beautiful and inspirational response to the ugly attacks on Jews around the world. So is our coming together, Christians and Jews, speaking in a unified voice when we say that attacks on individual rights and religious freedom will not be tolerated – and imploring our mighty God for His most precious gift of shalom, peace.

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein

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