Dear Friend of Israel
As 2016 draws to a close, we in Israel look back on a year marked, as all years are, by challenges and difficulties – but also much good.
Israelis, of course, have become accustomed to constantly being on guard against terror attacks while going about their daily lives – when waiting at bus stops, shopping in supermarkets, or simply walking down the street. Sadly, this sense of vigilance continued to be warranted in 2016, as terror struck in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and elsewhere. The Jewish community in Ukraine continued to face economic and security concerns in light of the ongoing civil unrest there. And we have seen a sharp rise in displays of anti-Semitism around the world – particularly in Europe – prompting an increase in requests for people wanting help in making aliyah (immigrate to Israel) on our Fellowship Freedom Flights.
But these challenges have not gone unanswered by Israel’s faithful friends. Thanks to your generosity, this year thousands of Jews made aliyah (immigrated to Israel) on our Fellowship Freedom Flights to escape poverty and oppression. We brought Jews to Israel from 20 different countries, including France, Brazil, Venezuela, Turkey, Belgium, and Russia. During the wave of wildfires this fall that caused an estimated $520 million in property damages and destroyed more than 600 homes, The Fellowship responded immediately with an emergency hotline and with food and clothing cards for people displaced from their homes. We fed countless hungry Jews in the former Soviet Union, and are providing lifesaving winter heating assistance to impoverished elderly.
This is only a snapshot of the full range of work made possible by your generosity. Your support calls to mind the Jewish concept of tikkun olam (“repairing the world”). This term beautifully expresses God’s desire that we care for those in need and help fix the broken places in this world. It is a concept beautifully lived out in your outpouring of prayers and support over the past year.
This year is also unique in that Christmas Eve and the beginning of Hanukkah fall on the same day. With this in mind, and since this will be our last e-newsletter for 2016, today I want to wish our Christian friends a peaceful and joyous Christmas, and to our Jewish friends, a Hanukkah filled with light. May the coming year bring you peace and prosperity, and may we all soon have the privilege of glimpsing the new, redeemed era, in which, as the prophet says, “You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands” (Isaiah 55:12).
With prayers for shalom, peace, at the holidays and throughout the coming year,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President