Record Numbers Immigrate to Israel for Safety Amid COVID-19
The Fellowship | May 22, 2020
JERUSALEM — On Tuesday, May 19, a flight carrying 109 new immigrants from Ukraine was welcomed by the Ministry of Aliyah (immigration) and Immigration staff at the special olim (Jewish immigrants) lounge at Ben Gurion Airport. Tuesday’s flight was the largest sponsored by the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (The Fellowship) since the outbreak of the coronavirus crisis.
“I am so glad to come to Israel and have been waiting for it for a long time. Medical care in Israel is on another level and especially in times of corona, this is paramount,” said Vadym Sergiyenko, 57, who made aliyah alone. The new olim include 21 children, of whom 14 are under the age of 10, while the oldest person to board this flight was an 89-year-old woman.
“One thing is clear throughout this pandemic, and that is the fact that Jewish people around the world are flocking to Israel for the safety, security, and stability they know they can find here,” said The Fellowship President and CEO, Yael Eckstein. “Despite the risks of travel, the limited availability of travel, and the strict quarantine in place for olim upon arrival, we have seen a significant increase in the desire to finally come home to Israel. This is a challenging time for the entire world and the Jewish world in particular. Despite the difficulties, The Fellowship continues to work hard for the benefit of continued aliyah activities. Our mandate does not stop during COVID-19.”
The olim who landed Tuesday were meant to arrive in Israel in March. However, as the coronavirus spread in Ukraine, the government closed their airspace and tightened their borders. Despite this, The Fellowship asked the Ukrainian government to finally allow the olim – who had already sold their homes and left their jobs with the intention of making aliyah, and had been waiting two months – to make the trip to Israel.
Vadym Sergiyenko from the city of Odessa plans to move to the city of Ashdod immediately after completing the quarantine period. “I’ve been waiting to make aliyah to Israel for a long time. For many years, I did not feel that I lived where I could be proud of my Judaism. With the coronavirus crisis, I feel that the conduct in Israel is more responsible,” he said. “I heard there’s a heatwave in Israel, but I’m not worried. I prefer to live in a warm place with warm people,” Sergiyenko concluded.
The new olim who landed in Israel will follow the Health Ministry’s instructions of full isolation for 14 days. Assuming there is no change in their health, the olim will be allowed to move into their permanent housing and begin their absorption process in Israel at the end of the quarantine period.
In recent weeks as international travel restrictions began to relax, requests to make aliyah among the countries where The Fellowship operates have increased 20%. This is in addition to the existing backlog of requests after aliyah flights were delayed for two months and immigration visas were suspended due to office closures.
The Fellowship has been working in full cooperation with the Ministry of Aliyah and Immigration for more than 25 years helping Jews make aliyah and has invested more than $200 million in bringing over 750,000 olim to Israel. In 2014, The Fellowship began operating independently in the field of immigration. Since then, it has brought more than 23,000 olim to Israel from 30 countries around the world. The Fellowship also helps immigrant families with housing and employment, and it 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.