Organized by the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, the flight took off soon after the death of the organization’s founder and driving force.
On Monday, 243 new immigrants from Ukraine landed in Israel on a flight organized by The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ) and in the memory of its founder and former president, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, who died on February 6.
Waiting at Ben-Gurion International Airport to greet the immigrants was Rabbi Eckstein’s daughter and successor at The Fellowship, Yael Eckstein, who has worked with the organization for the last 13 years. The board of directors had already voted for the younger Eckstein two years ago to become The Fellowship’s president-elect after which she began transitioning into the role.
“This special flight of 243 Jews from Ukraine who became citizens of Israel on Monday are the best ways of preserving the memory of my father and unequivocally demonstrate that we are continuing in his path,” said Eckstein. “We will continue to work on behalf of Jews who seek to make aliyah [immigration to Israel].”
“When I was just 10 years old, I was told a lot about Israel, and already then, I began to dream of aliyah,” said Andrii Tieriaiev from Kirovograd, one of the new immigrants.
“I came to Israel for a year when I was 20, and it was then that I resolved to make Israel the place where I want to live my life. After creating a family in Ukraine, I finally moved to Israel with my wife and two children,” the new immigrant added.
Monday’s flight was arranged with the help of some Christian friends of The Fellowship, seen as signifying that the organization is maintaining Rabbi Eckstein’s vision of a partnership between the Christian world and Israel.
“We will continue to build a bridge between the Christian world and Israel,” Eckstein said. “This flight attests to the great effort our Christian friends are making towards ensuring that my father’s dream of such a bridge is preserved and sustained.”
The new immigrants came from a number of cities, including the Ukrainian capital Kiev, Odessa, Kharkov, and Kirovograd, according to The Fellowship. The age range is from five months to 88 years old. Most will settle in Haifa and Ashdod, while the rest will move to Netanya, Rishon Lezion and Rehovot.
ICJF has been a major contributor to the Jewish Agency and helped to establish the Nefesh B’Nefesh immigration organization. In 2014, it began operating independently in the field of immigration. Since then, it says, it has brought 17,000 new citizens to Israel from 29 countries around the world.