The Planting of the Lord

By: Nicole Yoder, ICEJ Vice President for Aid & Aliyah

Aliyah means “to go up” in a spiritual as well as a physical sense. Hidden within this Hebrew term is the 2,000-year yearning for Jerusalem and Zion that the Jewish people have passed on from generation to generation in exile. The term “Aliyah” is used in Genesis 50:13–14 in reference to Jacob’s bones being brought up from Egypt for burial in the Land of Israel.

Having personally experienced the challenges of moving to a new country where everything changed in one short flight, I know how difficult it can be. Usually, potential immigrants carefully plan months (or years) before making such a move. First, they must deal with the bureaucracy of submitting paperwork to determine eligibility. Then they ideally take time to learn about options and plan where to go live or work or attend school. Arrangements for a host of other practical details must be done before actually getting on the plane. And landing in Israel is only the beginning of the journey.

But what happens if you scarcely had time to pack or make any plans at all?

Sisters in Need of Support

There are many facets to helping a new immigrant flourish in a new land. Irina (21) was in her last year of university and her younger sister, Lada (16), had not yet completed high school when their mother woke them up one morning to tell them words Irina never thought she would hear: “We are at war!”

“It was like a dream,” explained Irina. “I only had a half-year left to get my diploma. … Now we do not know what to do, because both my sister’s school and my university were bombed. We do not know what will happen in the future.”

Initially, the family remained at home anxiously following the news. But eventually they sheltered with other families in the storage rooms of the local supermarket where her mother worked. When the electric company was bombed a week later, they were plunged into darkness.

At this point, the girls’ mother decided it was too dangerous for them to remain. Although she felt that her responsibility as the manager of the supermarket required her to remain behind, she arranged for her daughters to escape by train—which was loaded to double-capacity—through Kharkiv to the Polish border. The ride took 24 hours, but they made it to Poland and eventually on to Israel.

Regarding her future, Irina says: “I have finished my education. I’m an engineer. I have studied ventilation, air conditioning, and heating, and I hope I can continue to work in my profession. I do not know if it is possible now that my university has been bombed, and I have not received my diploma.”

Separated from family and worried about loved ones left behind, Irina and Lada needed support with the basics after making Aliyah. We gave them welcome gift baskets and sponsored a program that offered them a place to stay, Hebrew classes, and assistance to prepare for their next steps in Israel. Ironically, this includes preparation for army service, which every young Israeli person is required to do. Imagine their parents’ relief knowing their daughters were safe, cared for, and had people to help them even though they could not be there in person to advise and assist them.

The Gentile Calling to Help

Many Christians over the years have given generously to ease the challenges of Aliyah because we know that the Lord calls the gentile nations to help (see, for example, Isaiah 49:22–23). However, God’s call to “carry their sons and daughters on our shoulders” involves much more than just providing some pre-Aliyah informational seminars and covering the cost of a flight with extra luggage allowance. It also entails helping each one become “planted” in their native land, something the Lord says He will do “with all [His] heart and soul” (Jeremiah 32:41).

This integration phase of being planted and rooted in Israel is crucial. Without it, an immigrant is doomed to an ongoing struggle—many become discouraged and seek to leave again, which disheartens others from attempting to come. This rooting process requires giving the “tree” nourishment and care. This care may come in many forms, such as assistance with housing, learning the language, vocational training, or recertification of professional credentials. Some immigrants need help closing education gaps. Basic needs in the form of a gift of household items or practical mentoring from local natives can make a crucial difference for a family seeking to adapt successfully in Israel.

The ICEJ gladly steps in to help provide it. The needs vary in each situation, but our aid is a tremendous source of comfort and assistance for bewildered and overwhelmed immigrants. Some require help in multiple ways, whereas others need only an initial push in the right direction and then can move forward independently.

Thanks to the generosity of our friends worldwide, the ICEJ’s Aliyah work provides essential aid for all the stages of Aliyah, including the crucial integration phase. Assistance with flights is a joy and a privilege, but we also are there to help address the often-larger challenges awaiting these new immigrants once they get off the plane.

You can be part of the ICEJ’s efforts to assist with the current surge in Aliyah!