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The Grandmother Ran Away from Judaism and the Granddaughter Returned to It as She Ran From the Bombing in Ukraine

TEL AVIV, August 30, 2016 –  With the increase of hostilities on the Russian-Ukrainian border in recent weeks, 211 new olim from Ukraine landed this morning (Tuesday) at Ben Gurion Airport, most of them from the embattled regions in the Eastern part of the country. The olim arrived on a flight sponsored by the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, and it is the IFCJ's 19th flight since the hostilities broke out between the two countries.  They will join the roughly 4,000 olim from Ukraine who have already made Aliyah with the IFCJ, beginning in December 2014. Among the olim there are 37 children who will begin their studies in Israeli schools in two days, and out of the 37, nine of them will be starting first grade.

One of the olim, Natalia S., who arrived in Israel with her mother and son, told us that she was forced to leave the city of Marinka in the Donetsk region in Eastern Ukraine after the extensive bombing in the city that began in April 2014. The building where her family lived was bombed and some of their neighbors were killed. Natalia explained that her family's Jewishness was kept secret by her grandmother who had survived the Holocaust, while her husband, Natalia's grandfather, was in a concentration camp. As a result, she says, "we knew we had Jewish roots but did not have the documents to prove it."

According to Natalia, one of the times the family visited the Holocaust Museum one of the employees at the site advised her as to what archive she should search in to find documents that would prove their Jewish roots. "Because of the advice we were given, we went later to the archive and found my grandmother's documents. In the documents, we read that she had changed her name and her father's name, from "Elia" and "Avraham" to "Lisa" and "Peter." Natalia, her mother, and her son are planning to settle in Acco.

Among the olim who arrived this morning, there are seven babies, two of them only a half-year old. The oldest person on the present flight in 82-years-old and the average age of the olim is 34. The preferred destination for the olim is Haifa, which will absorb 42 of the new arrivals. Most of the olim come from the Dnipropetrovsk region, which has become one of the preferred destinations for refugees escaping the embattled areas in Eastern Ukraine because of its proximity and the fact that it is still in Ukrainian hands.

The IFCJ assists the olim to Israel with special grants of $1,000 for each adult oleh and $500 for each child, in addition to financing the flight to Israel. This support given by the Keren is in addition to the basket of benefits that olim receive from the Ministry of Aliyah and Immigrant Absorption. Additionally, before they arrive in Israel the IFCJ arranges the absorption of the olim families in various local authorities. These local authorities are recruited to accompany the olim while finding housing and employment for them and continuing to accompany them even after they are absorbed in their new homes.

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, President of the IFCJ, said: "With all my heart, I want to wish each and every child on the flight a successful and fruitful school year and an easy adjustment to their new school. Due to the increase of hostilities on the Russian-Ukrainian border, there is a significant increase in calls from potential olim to the IFCJ representatives in Ukraine and we are doing everything to give them the best possible service so that they can begin new and secure lives in Israel, which was and still is the home for any person who is part of the Jewish people."

For further details, contact: Ryan Greiss, Puder PR, New York: (212) 558-9400; Ryan@PuderPR.com

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