Reflecting on a Season of Miracles

Yael Eckstein  |  November 29, 2021

Yael Eckstein and family on Hanukkah
(Photo: Avishag Shaar-Yashuv)

On Sunday at sundown, Jewish people around the world began the eight-day celebration of Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights. In the spirit of this season that remembers miracles God performed for His people through the ages, Yael rejoices for miracles happening today in this piece for Hanukkah shared with our friends at The Washington Examiner.

Today, Jews around the world are celebrating Hanukkah and Christians are preparing to celebrate Christmas. Though we are nearing the shortest, darkest days of the year, for people of faith, it is the season of light and miracles.

Hanukkah celebrates both a miraculous military victory and a miraculous spiritual victory. It is easy to think, though, when we celebrate these holidays with such ancient roots, that miracles are just a thing of the past.

But for the Jewish people, one of the greatest miracles in this season and throughout the year is the miracle of the Jewish people’s return to Israel — a miracle expressed by the Hebrew word “aliyah.” Aliyah reflects the deepest aspiration of many Jews. “Making aliyah” simply means Jewish people returning to their biblical homeland, Israel. These pilgrims returning home are called “olim.” In 2021 alone, it is projected that more than 5,000 olim will relocate to Israel by year’s end.

Some olim return in order to restore and reconnect with their Jewish roots. Others move to escape violence and antisemitism. Many return to be reunited with families they were separated from by both time and tragedy. Whatever the circumstance, making aliyah acknowledges the miracle God worked nearly 75 years ago when He allowed His people to reclaim their ancient land and create the modern State of Israel.

In my work with the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, I meet olim regularly and am inspired by their stories every day. One olim from the former Soviet Union, named Vitalii, said his grandmother burned every document that identified her as a Jew and changed her surname. Vitalii changed his name back and made aliyah to Israel so he and his family could embrace their faith and his children could live proudly and openly as Jews. “In Israel, the first words I heard were, ‘Welcome home,’” said Vitalii. “I finally feel I’m where I belong.” This year, Vitalii’s family celebrated their first Rosh Hashanah in Israel.

Larisa said her family made aliyah because they were the last Jewish family left in their hometown in Uzbekistan, which used to have a vibrant Jewish community. “There was no future for Jews in our region,” she said. “I wanted my children to grow up as Jews. If we stayed, they would have forgotten their Jewish roots.” Larisa has other reasons as well. Her mother was suffering from diabetes and could not get adequate healthcare. Israel promised a solution. In addition, Larisa’s oldest son had already made aliyah. The trip saved her mother’s health and reunited their family.

Chirley was working as a teacher at a Jewish school in France when it was attacked by terrorists intent on slaughtering Jews. “On the day the lessons were supposed to start, I wasn’t at the school. But I heard a lot of loud noises and sirens,” Chirley recalls. “A friend called to tell me there was a terror attack. I was so happy to make aliyah and live in Israel where I can worship openly and educate children in their Jewish faith.”

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