After spending thousands of years in exile, Ukrainian Jews are fulfilling millennia-old biblical prophesy by returning to Israel – a process called “aliyah” in Hebrew.
Last week, more than 130 Jews from the Ukraine began a new life after arriving at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel, as foretold in the Bible.
"There has never been a people who have been exiled for so long who then returned to their homeland – returned to “their language,” International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ) President Yael Eckstein pointed out, according to CBN News. “And so, there's the prophetic reality of this that's so huge – that each one of these people, Isaiah saw … Jeremiah saw. They saw them."
Besides Eckstein’s organization, the Israeli government also knows the importance of bringing God’s people back home, and as many Christians believe that the End Times prophesied in the Bible are fast approaching, the number of exiled Jews returning to Israel has greatly increased over the past decade – especially from their neighbors to the north.
“Israel invests considerable resources in promoting and facilitating aliyah, and when immigration figures are up, it is widely seen as a measure of success of the Zionist project,” the Israeli daily Haaretz reported. “[O]ver the past decade, total aliyah has virtually doubled – from nearly 15,500 in 2008 to nearly 29,500 in 2018 – thanks in no small part to the growing number of new arrivals from … two countries [Russia and the Ukraine].”
God at work
Eckstein’s father, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein – who founded the organization now referred to as “The Fellowship” – passed away one year before the flight, and it is believed the men are merely carrying out God’s will.
"He always felt a calling that it wasn't him, but God working through him to unite Christians and Jews – to bring biblical prophecy to fruition," Eckstein recalled.
Besides fulfilling prophesy from the Bible, Ukrainian Jews making aliyah found many other benefits in coming home to the Promised Land.
"We know that Israel is the best place because we have also our relatives there," newly arrived immigrant Lars Heller-Gorelik explained to CBN News.
Being a land of safety, opportunity, religious freedom and peace from war for God’s people were also mentioned by new arrivals as perks …
"Israel has many advantages – it's much … safer,” Yulia Heller-Gorlik pointed out. “You … can go out at midnight and feel perfectly safe. It's so different from [the Ukraine] – you know, where it's not safe at all."
"My future is no good in [the Ukraine],” 53-year-old Eugene asserted. “I know in Israel, I have a future – I have a job."
"I think that it's God,” Iryna Kovalenko expressed. “This decision is not only mine – it's a decision of God … for my family."
"It was very dangerous,” Artur Myshchinskyi of eastern Ukraine recounted. “In the past three years, we've spent most of our time in occupied territories with severe shortages of electricity and water and we survived the shellings."
Much needed help
Most of the arrangements for the latest wave of Ukrainian Jews to touch down and get settled in Israel were provided by The Fellowship, including finances, logistics and official documentation, and those making the transition and pivotal journey realize how life-changing their move will be, as noted by Ukrainian Rabbi Pinchas Vishedski.
"My message to them today was they made the right decision because aliyah – when they will be there – it could be a little bit difficult for them, but it will be difficult … but the end will be very successful," Vishedski said after the immigrants’ orientation.
New life, new hope
Because of anti-Semitism in the Ukraine and other parts of Eastern Europe that has continued for millennia, many of those making aliyah did not reveal plans about their departures to most living in their communities.
"Only my neighbor from this home knows about my departure," Iryna shared with CBN News. "Because people didn't like me – didn't want … me and my family [to] be happy."
What she left did not compare to what she found in store for her.
"Now I appear in my real motherland!” Iryna exclaimed amidst applause from her fellow travelers when they arrived in Israel. “I returned to my mother, to my real mother with my children and my husband, and now I'm so happy, so proud to this great, great trip and great matter … I think the most important thing in my life."
And as anti-Semitism intensifies worldwide, Eckstein says there’s no better time for Jews to return to their true homeland. Jews were disbanded 2,000 years ago when Israel was no longer a nation and started returning in 1948 when it was restored as a Jewish nation as prophesied in the Bible.
"Sometimes, I think that the reason Isaiah said that the Jewish people would come home to Israel [at the] end of days is because he knew that anti-Semitism would once again raise its ugly head, and if they didn't come home to Israel – the only country where there's a Jewish government, where there's a Jewish army, who's only concern is protecting the Jewish people unlike anywhere in the entire world – that there wouldn't be any Jewish people left in the world because of all the anti-Semitism," Eckstein reflected. "And so, I look at this – as you never know when the borders are going to close … you never know when it's going to be too late. And so, The Fellowship, as soon as we have the opportunity to bring a Jewish person home, we do it immediately."
Coronavirus no obstacle for God
Even as much of the world continues to curb travel because of the fears of COVID-19 spreading, dispersed Jews worldwide do not let the virus sidetrack God’s plan for their return to Israel.
“In recent weeks, as international travel restrictions have begun to relax, requests to make aliyah among the countries where The Fellowship operates have increased 20%,” the Jerusalem Post announced late last month. “This is in addition to the existing backlog of requests after aliyah flights were delayed for two months and immigration visas were suspended due to office closures.”
And in the weeks before the latest flight arrived last week, hundreds of other Jews reached their prophesied destination.
“The Fellowship has been helping Ukrainian Jews make aliyah amid the coronavirus, and recently a number of flights carrying more than 100 olim (immigrants) each have arrived in Israel,” the Post noted.