New Immigrants from Ukraine Celebrate First Hanukkah in the Holy Land

The Fellowship  |  December 19, 2017

JERUSALEM, Dec. 19 – A planeload of 208 new immigrants from Ukraine celebrated their first Hanukkah in Israel after landing in Tel Aviv on a Freedom Flight today, thanks to millions of Christian supporters of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (The Fellowship).

The Ukraine immigrants — the latest to come to Israel with The Fellowship — arrived on the eighth and last day of Hanukkah. The Fellowship provided the newcomers with an Israeli breakfast, Hanukkah jelly doughnuts, and candy for the children in the group, while the new immigrants also lit the eighth Hanukkah candle on a menorah at the airport.

Welcoming the group for this special holiday occasion was Israel’s Minister of Immigration and Absorption, Sofa Landver. “It is so symbolic that you arrived in Israel at the height of the Festival of Lights – Hanukkah. You are adding a lot of light to the State of Israel, and I hope that your first Hanukkah lights in Israel will light your way to building a new home” in the Jewish state, she told the arrivals.

Fellowship representatives, including the Director-General of the organization’s Israel office, Jeff Kaye, and Global Executive Vice President, Yael Eckstein, also welcomed the immigrants. “You’ve arrived just at the right time,” she told the group. “Today we’re celebrating the Hanukkah holiday. This is the only holiday we celebrate that happened here in the Land of Israel. Like the miracle of Hanukkah, it’s a big miracle that you’ve arrived.”

Among the immigrants were members of the Zhelezniakov family, spanning three generations. “We were always connected to Judaism, but we did not want to leave our senior positions and start our life all over again in Israel. Now that we have reached retirement age, we decided that it was time to make aliyah, and our children and our grandchildren decided to join us,” said Anna Zhelezniakov.

After their arrival the immigrants headed to their new homes across Israel, including in Arad, Acre, Eilat, Netanya, and Nahariya. Each immigrant family will receive nearly $4,300 from the Israel Ministry of Immigration and Absorption, while The Fellowship will also give them $800 per adult and $400 per child upon arrival, in addition to providing assistance with schooling, housing, living essentials such as furniture, employment training, and more.

According to the ministry, 27,856 immigrants have arrived in Israel this year, including 6,760 immigrants from Russia, 6,709 Ukraine immigrants, 3,270 from France and 2,772 from the U.S. The Fellowship, which has been playing an increasing role in supporting immigration to Israel, brought more than one third of the new immigrants from 26 countries (besides North America and the UK) where Jews are experiencing economic challenges, rising anti-Semitism or security threats. Since late 2014, The Fellowship has brought nearly 12,000 new immigrants to Israel, including the latest arrivals today.

The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (The Fellowship) was founded in 1983 to promote better understanding and cooperation between Christians and Jews and build broad support for Israel. Today it is one of the leading forces helping Israel and Jews in need worldwide — and is the largest channel of Christian support for Israel. Founded by Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, The Fellowship now raises more than $120 million per year, mostly from Christians, to assist Israel and the Jewish people. Since its founding, The Fellowship has raised more than $1.8 billion for this work. The organization has offices in Jerusalem, Chicago, Toronto and Seoul. For more information, visit

Yael Eckstein is the President and CEO of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews. In this role, Eckstein oversees all ministry programs and serves as the organization’s international spokesperson. She can be heard on The Fellowship’s daily radio program airing on 1,500 stations worldwide. Before her present duties, Yael served as global executive vice president, senior vice president, and director of program development and ministry outreach. Based in Jerusalem, Yael is a published writer, leading international advocate for persecuted religious minorities, and a respected social services professional. As President and CEO of The Fellowship, she also holds the rare distinction of being a woman leading one of America’s largest religious not-for-profit organizations.

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