Despite Strict Airport Closure, Aliyah to Israel Persists

The Fellowship  |  February 26, 2021

(Photo: Yossi Zeliger)

JERUSALEM — By Friday, February 26, flights carrying a total of 150 olim (immigrants) from Ukraine had arrived in Israel despite the nation’s closure of its airports and land borders until March 6. The flights were sponsored by the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (The Fellowship), the largest Christian-funded operator of aliyah (immigration to Israel).

Among the new citizens is Tetiana Romanenko, who is grateful her flight was not cancelled: “I was told that most of the aliyah flights have currently been delayed or cancelled, but this flight arranged by The Fellowship will happen.” Tetiana, along with her parents Valerii and Olena, will reunite with her three children who made aliyah within the past decade. “I just want to thank The Fellowship for making my aliyah possible.”

Tetiana is especially glad to rejoin her daughter, Karina, who was attacked by terrorists five years ago during basic training. One of the young women in Karina’s patrol was critically wounded and another died. When Tetiana called to see if Karina was ok, she noted: “I heard the other girls from her unit crying aloud in the background. It was so scary.” Karina is now an officer and makes Tetiana proud: “Every day of her service adds another gray hair to my head, but I am so proud of my daughter.”

Maria Izrailevskaya also shared her gratitude: “The Fellowship has a special flight reserved for us, so I am thankful that I could leave Ukraine now, as soon as possible, because I am afraid of coronavirus. Here in Ukraine it’s very difficult to get a vaccine. I heard that in Israel there is no such a problem.”

Maria is leaving both her home and her family history in Ukraine. “A part of my family perished in the infamous Babi Yar massacre in 1941 including my great grandparents. Our grandparents didn’t speak much about our relatives who perished so that we would not pass their words to other people. Of course, with our family name we couldn’t hide that we are Jews and we indeed suffered from it.” Maria will join her daughter, Lyubov, who also made aliyah with The Fellowship.

All olim will go into two weeks of quarantine in a hotel converted into a quarantine facility per the Ministry of Health’s coronavirus guidelines. The Fellowship is also working with the Ministry of Aliyah and Absorption to approve the aliyah of other olim stranded in foreign countries due to the border closures, while complying the Ministry of Health to maintain the nation’s overall safety.

Fellowship President and CEO, Yael Eckstein, noted that the State of Israel has always been committed to aliyah: “In times of war, aliyah never stopped. Even now as we’re at war with a deadly virus, aliyah continues. It is the main pillar of Zionism, and The Fellowship will continue to support Israel’s efforts to bring Jewish people back to their ancestral homeland.”

For more than 20 years, the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews has been helping Jews to make aliyah and has invested more than $200 million in bringing more than 750,000 olim (immigrants) to Israel. The Fellowship has also been a major contributor to the Jewish Agency and helped to establish the Nefesh B’Nefesh organization. In 2014, The Fellowship began operating independently in the field of immigration.

Since then, it has brought more than 27,000 olim to Israel from 40 countries around the world. The olim receive comprehensive assistance from The Fellowship, including special grants of $500 per adult and $300 per child. The Fellowship also sponsors their flights to Israel and ensures that they receive the klitah (resettlement) assistance that they need. Additionally, The Fellowship helps immigrant families with housing and employment, and continues to advise them as they become accustomed to life in Israel.


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 www.ifcj.org.

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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