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Hanukkah ‘Flight of Miracles’ brings 100 Ukrainian Jews to Israel

“Immigrant absorption is at the very heart of Zionism and we will do everything possible to welcome these olim with love and open arms,” said Jewish Agency Chair Doron Almog.

Yael Eckstein, president of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, on the "Flight of Miracles" that touched down in Israel carrying 100 Ukrainian immigrants. Credit: Yossi Zelinger.
Yael Eckstein, president of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, on the "Flight of Miracles" that touched down in Israel carrying 100 Ukrainian immigrants. Credit: Yossi Zelinger.

A “Flight of Miracles” touched down this week in Israel carrying 100 Ukrainian immigrants, as part of an ongoing humanitarian effort by the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ), the Jewish Agency, the Joint (JDC) and ZAKA.

The flight from the war-torn country took place during Hanukkah, or Festival of Lights, and included several passengers who had been waiting for months to pursue new lives in Israel.

Among them is Ella Smirnova, 76, who fled her home in Odessa. As she was preparing for Rosh Hashanah, she fell and broke her neck and was completely paralyzed.

“I’m totally handicapped and limited to my bed, so this war has added to my feeling of helplessness and I didn’t see a way out. When the air raid sirens went off the only thing I could think to do was try and hide under the bedsheet and the only way I would be able to save myself is if someone came along to help me,” she said.

Anna Shtepura and her children Marina and Vladislav were also aboard the flight. “This is lifesaving, even though we have to make this move without my husband. I truly hope he can join us in Israel soon but I know that this is something we have to do for the safety and future of our family,” she said.

Jewish Agency Chair Doron Almog commented, “The Jewish Agency continues to serve on the forefront on behalf of Jews all over the world. These 100 new olim who arrived with the assistance of the IFCJ, the Joint and ZAKA join the nearly 14,000 who have arrived in Israel… since the beginning of the war [in Ukraine last February]. Immigrant absorption is at the very heart of Zionism and we will do everything possible to welcome these olim with love and open arms. We will continue to care for all of their needs to ensure their successful acclimation into Israeli society.”

Yael Eckstein, president of IFCJ, added, “Even while these newest Israelis have had lives defined by pain and suffering for almost the entire past year, it is inspiring to see how they are so filled with hope. Hanukkah is a holiday of miracles and the spirit of overcoming immense challenges and darkness. Just like our ancestors turned that darkness into light, I am so hopeful and proud that this flight will allow them to begin new lives where that pain can be left far behind.”

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