The Constant Call of Aliyah

By: Laurina Driesse, ICEJ Media and Publications Director

This is what the Sovereign LORD says: “See, I will beckon to the nations, I will lift up my banner to the peoples; they will bring your sons in their arms and carry your daughters on their hips.” (Isaiah 49:22 NIV)

The current major wave of Aliyah hitting Israel continues to roll into 2023. More than 73,000 Jews immigrated to Israel in 2022, the highest number since the years following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1989. The leading causes appear to be the direct and indirect results of the war in Ukraine. The ICEJ continues to help with this amazing ingathering in innovative ways, such as assisting with Aliyah winter camps for Ukrainian Jewish youth in the safety of nearby Baltic states.

Since the beginning of the Russia/Ukraine conflict in 2014, the ICEJ has sponsored flights, ground transportation, and Aliyah preparation activities, as well as immediate and urgent integration needs for thousands of Ukrainian Jewish Olim (immigrants) to Israel. Currently, we are helping to evacuate frail elderly Jews and assisting with youth Aliyah, especially for displaced families throughout the Former Soviet Union (FSU).

January 2023 started with the ICEJ supporting a wonderful, innovative Aliyah Winter Camp for young Ukrainian Jewish youths, ages 12–17, and Jewish children from the Baltic states. The atmosphere on the bus was cheerful as 54 youth from Ukraine, who had recently crossed the border into Poland and on to Riga, Latvia, joined 21 Ukrainian refugee children living in other East European countries and 45 Latvian Jewish children.

The kids were so excited to stay in a three-star resort hotel. Soon the conference rooms turned into buzzing hives of activity as the youngsters started making new friends, embracing their heritage, and learning all they could from Israeli counselors who taught them about making Aliyah and the opportunities awaiting them in Israel.

The Aliyah winter camp was called “Dacha,” the popular Russian name for a country home where people often go for a rest during their summer or winter breaks. The winter respite usually runs from New Year’s Eve to January 10, when people often say: “I am going to my dacha.

These Aliyah youth camps have been a huge success over the years, and this year was no different! Isaac, one camper from Lviv, expressed his opinion of the camp by showing a big “thumbs up” sign. Meanwhile, another youth from near Kyiv simply called it, “Super!”

“This is just one tangible example of the critical work for the Jews of Ukraine, made possible thanks to generous friends such as yourselves,” said Danielle Mor of the Jewish Agency, which organized the camp. “May [the year] 2023 be marked by such joy and hope.”

This is the second Aliyah youth camp the ICEJ has recently supported in the Baltic region. The first such “Dacha” camp was in Lithuania in September for more than 100 children.

Most of the 73,000-plus Jewish Olim who arrived in Israel in 2022 were from Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus. However, there also has been a noticeable increase from other former Soviet republics, such as Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia. The ICEJ is well positioned to assist with this upsurge from the Baltic states as we continue to work closely with regional Jewish Agency representatives. For instance, the ICEJ is helping with Aliyah flights, airport transfers, Aliyah preparation seminars, and trips to the Israeli consul for visas.

On December 18 the ICEJ supported a special Hanukkah Day in Riga, Latvia, and our first sponsored flight was on the December 19. The first family was brought from a coastal city to the airport by van with extra baggage for the direct flight to Israel.

The Jewish remnant in the FSU is concerned for their safety and future. They risk being conscripted for military service in Russia, while in Ukraine, men of draft age are restricted from leaving the country. This has led to the separation of family members, some of whom have gone to Israel; others have fled to East European countries. The ICEJ is helping in these situations with our integration programs and humanitarian help in the Diaspora.

We will continue to support Aliyah from the former Soviet republics. Our Aliyah work began in Vienna in 1980, and since then, we have helped more than 170,000 Jews come home to Israel—plus many more through the integration process.

Thank you for partnering with us in our Aliyah efforts to bring Jews back to their biblic

or over 40 years, the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ) has faithfully answered the divine call for Christians to partner with God in the great ingathering of the Jewish people. We believe it is the hand of God in keeping with His promises to restore Israel after their long exile. The ICEJ has now assisted over 170,000 Jews from around the world to make Aliyah (return) to Israel. We also have helped tens of thousands of new Jewish immigrants adjust to their new lives once back in the land of their forefathers.

This past year we witnessed a massive surge in Jewish immigration to Israel, largely due to the brutal war in Ukraine and the economic and political uncertainty in Russia. Latest figures show that well over 70,000 Jews made Aliyah last year, with some 80 percent coming from the Former Soviet Republics (FSU). This is nearly double the number of Jewish immigrants to Israel in recent years.

Our Aliyah support in 2022 helped bring 4,732 Jewish immigrants to Israel, whether through the flights themselves, pre-flight assistance (Aliyah camps and seminars), bus transportation, and/or accommodations enroute. Among them were 1,092 Ukrainian Jews desperate to escape their war-torn cities.

This included 190 Holocaust Survivors—plus an additional 100 frail, elderly Jews all rescued from Ukraine and given special accommodations, transport, and medical care on their journey to Israel. Our staff were privileged to welcome 17 of these Holocaust Survivors from Ukraine into the ICEJ’s unique assisted-living home in Haifa.

Early in the Ukraine refugee crisis, ICEJ Finland delivered two truckloads of humanitarian aid to Poland to disperse to needy Ukrainian Jewish families uprooted from their homes.

Amid the crisis, the Jewish Agency established an Aliyah assistance hotline so people could access urgent Aliyah information. To ensure desperate people received the information they needed immediately, our own hotline for Holocaust Survivors stepped in to help answer calls when Jewish Agency representatives could not answer.

In addition, our support ensured the 1,571 new arrivals landed softly in their homeland and integrated as smoothly and quickly as possible into Israeli society. For example:

  • 79 new immigrants from the FSU received professional recertification assistance, including 16 doctors and 30 nurses; 34 others received vocational training in the hi-tech industry.
  • 23 Ethiopian students, each with at least 8 to 11 years of schooling, were sponsored by the ICEJ to join a special 9-month course that enabled them to complete their high school studies. Another 20 new arrivals participated in after-school educational programs for Ethiopian children.
  • 10 Ukrainian teens who arrived in Israel without their parents participated in a six-month integration program that included housing, Hebrew lessons, seminars, and army preparation.
  • 20 homes were furnished for new immigrants arriving from Ukraine.
  • 490 new immigrant families received welcome packs.
  • 29 Ukrainian immigrant families received subsidized dental treatmen.
  • 50 FSU immigrant families received housing assistance for their first two weeks in Israel, including household and electrical appliances, linens, and bedding.

The surge in Aliyah is expected to continue well into 2023, so please keep supporting the ICEJ’s Aliyah efforts.