ICEJ Surprises New Immigrants with a Hanukkah Blessing
—Laurina Driesse, ICEJ Staff
During this special season where the miracle of Hanukkah is celebrated, many Jewish new immigrants in Israel are hoping for their own little miracle.
In the week leading up to Hanukkah, Nicole Yoder, ICEJ Vice President for Aid and Aliyah received an unexpected phone call from Tatiyana, a resident of Carmiel in northern Israel. She explained how she was receiving hundreds of phone calls from desperate new immigrant families and how, together with other locals, they were trying their best to help them.
Making Aliyah is a time-consuming process and in these uncertain times, many families from FSU countries are nervous about how current world events may affect their lives. The end result is that those who can, are coming directly to Israel to begin the Aliyah process instead of waiting to receive an Aliyah visa before setting out. There are thousands considering Aliyah and so the lines are long. Those who can afford the high cost of air tickets, fly to any destination they can and from there make their way to Israel, generally arriving with only a few suitcases filled with essentials. However, those who go this route, must then wait for their paperwork to be processed before they can begin accessing government assistance. This month or two of waiting is expensive and not everyone has enough resources to bridge that gap successfully until they can begin working.
Tatiyana explained how some families needed help finding an apartment with a landlord who would accept cash payments, but now that they are in the apartment, they have absolutely nothing. Most of their funds were spent on the air tickets and accommodation. “They are sleeping on the cold, hard tile floors. They do not have beds or blankets. One family had three shekels left, and the parents were putting their own clothes over their children to keep them warm”, Tatiyana shared with a sigh.
“My heart was so touched when I got the call. It is very difficult to see others suffering and asking for help and then not have the resources to provide what they need”, said Nicole.
After that phone call, Nicole knew right away that she had to do something. She started looking around to see what she had on hand. She found some left over new cooking pots from a Passover distribution, small lovingly hand-knitted blankets and socks given by our Finnish friends, carefully made children’s size quilts and a big bag of new warm winter clothing received from our friends in the US, and new towels brought by friends of the ICEJ in their suitcases to the Feast of Tabernacles for just such occasions. Next Nicole went out to buy additional blankets and other bedding items, and quickly made-up beautiful ICEJ “We Care” gift packages for 20 Jewish immigrant families. Remembering that Hanukkah was approaching, she added a special touch by writing “Happy Hanukkah” on the card to each one. Each family also received a gift card that allowed them to purchase food or household items according to their need.
With a fully packed vehicle, Nicole made her way towards Carmiel. Tatiyana, an immigrant herself, was overcome with emotion at seeing all the gift packages. “She put both hands over her face to hide the tears” said Nicole, as she too had tears welling up in her eyes. What began as a solemn handshake greeting quickly turned into a warm embrace that expressed gratitude beyond words.
“Tatiyana confided that some discouraged immigrants felt like no one cared. She told them, ‘Listen its almost Hanukkah. Perhaps there will be a Hanukkah miracle’” shared Nicole. “What a joy to be someone’s Hanukkah miracle, and to give the gift packages in an ICEJ bag with the words ‘We Care’ printed on it!”
Immediately Tatiyana contacted her team to let them know that they had gifts to give away and to let the families know to come to collect their package.
“Imagine the challenges these families face and the fears that made them flee with next to nothing. Hopefully they’ll swiftly complete the Aliyah process so they can start receiving initial government aid and can look for employment. I am so glad that they have arrived. It is so important to welcome them well and let them know that we really do care,” remarked Nicole. A huge thank you to all our wonderful friends who enable the ICEJ to show love and care for new immigrants, who often feel overwhelmed and lonely when they first land and have to start becoming acclimatized to a new place.
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