September 1, 2016
Dear Friend of Israel
Seventy-seven years ago, on September 1, 1939, Germany launched a brazen invasion of Poland that marked the beginning of the Second World War. The conflict would eventually encompass nearly the entire globe. By most estimates, more than 60 million people around the world died in what was one of the most brutal and farthest-reaching conflicts in human history.
We must never take lightly the intense human suffering and the loss of life that is an inevitable outcome of war. And yet, we recognize that the Allies’ entry into the war was a terrible necessity. Victory came at an incalculable cost – a cost paid in human lives – but the cost of inaction would have been even higher. Hitler would have likely succeeded in his plans for domination of Europe, if not the world, had he not met with fierce Allied resistance, and his “Final Solution” – his plan to exterminate the Jews of Europe that resulted in the Holocaust – might well have succeeded.
I was reminded of this sobering anniversary earlier this week, when a planeload of more than 200 olim (immigrants) arrived from Ukraine in Israel on yet another Fellowship Freedom Flight. World War II exacted a terrible price on Ukraine, where millions of people died during the war. Prior to the war, Ukraine also had one of the largest Jewish populations in the former Soviet Union. More than one million Jews there – along with countless other “undesirables” – were exterminated by the Nazis.
Some Jews in this troubled part of the world, which is again scarred by war due to fighting between Ukrainian forces and Russian separatists, survived the Holocaust, but are too old and infirm to leave. Others are Holocaust survivors who are now able to live their final years in their biblical homeland. Still others were too young to have experienced World War II but have heard harrowing firsthand stories of the Holocaust from their ancestors, and now are blessed to realize the promise of life in the modern Jewish state. I am filled with gratitude for your continued generosity that allows us to offer the hope of aliyah (immigration to Israel) to these for whom it means so much.
Even as we remember this dark time in history, and give thanks for the men who gave their lives in service of the cause of freedom during World War II, we pray for the day when war will be no more. We base this not on faith in man’s ingenuity or ability to make peace, but on our faith in God, Who, the Bible tells us, “… makes wars cease to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire” (Psalm 46:9). May we see the day when God will bless the world with His most precious gift of shalom.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President