August 9, 2017
Dear Friend of Israel,
It was one of the most heart-wrenching things I’ve ever witnessed: When a group of 26 Jewish olim (immigrants) got off the plane at Ben Gurion airport in Israel, they were so hungry they immediately rushed to the McDonalds at the airport. The first thing they wanted to do was eat.
They came to Israel on a Fellowship Freedom Flight from Venezuela, a country in the grip of a desperate downward economic spiral. It is a national catastrophe that has led to chaos and widespread hunger in this South American nation.
Long lines form at grocery stores due to food shortages. People root through the garbage for scraps of food. People have died from the simplest illnesses due to a critical shortage of medical supplies. Crime, including kidnapping, is rampant. Venezuela is teetering on the edge of total economic collapse and a breakdown of public order.
The crisis has been devastating to Venezuela’s Jewish community, estimated at about 10,000 people. We have been filling urgent requests for medicine and other assistance from this embattled community, but the real answer for them is aliyah – immigration to Israel. In their biblical homeland, they have safety, the promise of a better life, ample klitah (resettlement) assistance from The Fellowship, and the opportunity to practice their faith freely. We pledge to do everything in our power to help the Jews of Venezuela come to Israel and build new lives in the Jewish state.
One woman who got off the plane that day in Israel – Michal, a mother of three – put it simply: “My feeling now is that I’ve returned to my homeland,” she said. “I’ve come home, and it makes me so happy.”
Her words made me think of the promise in Psalm 30:5: “weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” I am so grateful to all those who are turning weeping into rejoicing for the Jews of Venezuela. May these who have suffered so much fully experience the peace and joy of living in their biblical homeland. And may we all experience the joy that comes from knowing God’s gift of shalom, peace.
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President