Blessing on Wheels

By: Maxine Carlill, ICEJ AID

Homecare nurse Corrie van Maanen picked up a new immigrant from Ukraine from Ben Gurion airport. As her passenger shared her story of escape from Ukraine, Corrie could hardly imagine what the woman went through. How she recently fled from one place to another in Ukraine, with tense delays between each stop; how a two-hour car trip took 12 hours; how when she crossed the border to safety in Poland, she still had to rely on the goodness of strangers for a few days. As Corrie glanced at the woman in her Homecare car eating the lunch Corrie had provided, she wondered: How long since the woman last ate?

But then this new immigrant to Israel told Corrie something that has stayed with her:

“I knew from the first minute I put my feet on this path of escape that the God of Israel was with me—every step of this scary journey.”

A week before, Corrie had received an excited and, at the same, time frightful phone call from Katya. Katya’s words tumbled out over each other as she exclaimed, “My mother got out of Energodar, and it is a great miracle. She is on her way to Israel!” Energodar is a city in Ukraine with a large nuclear plant; for months, it was impossible to get out of the embattled town.

Katya had immigrated to Israel with her husband several years prior and missed her mother greatly. The newlywed couple had married young and soon had three children, which unfortunately strained their marriage and eventually, they separated. It was then ICEJ Homecare came into Katya’s life with financial and practical help to support her in that difficult season.

A week later, Katya called Corrie again from her home in Beersheva, this time in panic: “My mom arrives tomorrow, but there is nobody who can pick her up from the airport.”

Corrie stepped in to pick up Katya’s mom and recounted what became a day of joy:

“The next day I drove to the airport with a photo Katya had given me,” she said. “The doors of the Arrivals Hall opened and closed while I waited with expectation. Then I spotted a lady coming through the door alone. She looked tired and was obviously looking for someone she did not know. The moment we recognized each other, there was relief! After a big hug and tears from the pressure of the past few days, Katya’s mother was relieved knowing she was safe. She was in Israel.”

Even though her husband, son, and her son’s family are still in Ukraine, when she arrived in Beersheba and reunited with her daughter and grandchildren, it was an emotional moment with tears of joy and hugs—a thousand words unspoken.

Driving back to Jerusalem, Corrie was mindful of the character of Homecare.

“It is all about relationships,” she explained. “It’s all about stepping in where we see the need. It is so much more than nursing care and may cost time and effort, like today’s mission. We made a difference for one mother. A car became the vehicle of blessing to make it possible.”

A few days later, Katya’s mother heard that her city had come under a huge rocket attack; her neighbor’s house was damaged, and people she knew were killed. Although she loves being with her daughter, she still battles homesickness and misses her loved ones left behind.

Since the war in Ukraine broke out eight months ago, the work of Homecare has taken on an extra level of service. It not only provides immigrants with assistance in coping with daily life in Israel with all its challenges but also involves listening to the stories of family members and friends still living in a war-torn country. We only understand in part what living in a war zone with no certainty of tomorrow is like. But we do know the calling we have to comfort the Jewish people, especially in this time of need.

Many new arrivals from Ukraine and Russia have suffered trauma leaving them with deep emotional pain, and Israel steps in with the right help. We encourage those from the nations to pray and to give, to be part of this urgent and increasing Aliyah.

Giving loving care to elderly Jews in need.