Christian organization tops $1 million for Ukrainian rescue efforts

A Ukrainian child waits for a place to stay at a refugee center in Moldova, March 2022. Credit: Courtesy.

(JNS Wire) — Nestled outside of Jerusalem near the moshav of Nes Harim, lies a safe haven for some 80 Jewish children seeking refuge from the war in Ukraine. A team of representatives from Bridges for Peace visited the center where the children are housed in order to bless their caretakers with NIS 100,000 ($30,000) as well as gift cards of NIS 500 ($150) for each child to get clothes, school supplies or whatever else they need. They also brought gift bags with candy and snacks for each child.

Whether they plan to stay in Israel until they can safely return to Ukraine, or whether they make aliyah and become permanent citizens of the Jewish state, Bridges for Peace and other organizations are working to make sure these children who have seen and been through so much will feel at home and welcome in Israel.

These children, all between the ages of 3 and 18, arrived in Israel from war-torn Ukraine in March. They came from a Chabad-run orphanage in Zhytomyr, western Ukraine. Many of the children have at least one parent but come from bad situations, such as poverty, abuse, neglect, having a parent in prison or living with parents who are addicted to drugs or alcohol. Living in the Chabad-run Alumim Children’s Home and Social Rehabilitation Center for Jewish Children allowed the children to live and grow in an environment where they could not only have basic needs met, such as stability, security, food, medicine and clothing; they also were provided with counseling, therapy, education and whatever else they need to become healthy, productive members of society.

Malki Bukiet is an Israeli-born Chabad ambassador who had been living in Ukraine for 19 years and serving at the Alumim Center for 15 years. She described Zhytomyr as a beautiful, peaceful community in the rural countryside of Western Ukraine. Unfortunately, however, it is located close to a military base — which Bukiet said the Russians began bombing at the beginning of the invasion in February.

Causing loud booms and setting off sirens, the bombing frightened and traumatized the children, Bukiet said. The staff decided to flee the area for refuge at a hotel in the Carpathian Mountains. Assuming the fighting would be over in a mere few days, Bukiet said they packed minimal clothing for each child and whatever documents they had.

But as time passed, the bombings continued and the invasion grew bloodier each day. When it became clear that the Russians weren’t leaving anytime soon, the group, aided by Chabad, made their way to Israel.

The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued temporary passports for any of the children who did not have one. The Ukrainian government also gave a green light for their exit from the country — except for the bus driver, a man under the age of 60, meaning he would be needed for military service to defend the country.

The group, therefore, had to cross the border into Romania on foot.

Overcoming all the obstacles and hurdles, they finally made it safely to the Jewish state, their ancestral homeland. Here, some of the children intend to stay. Others still have family back in Ukraine, loved ones that they worry about, pray for and hope to return to someday soon.

In the meantime, the children and the orphanage staff who arrived with them from Ukraine are being housed at the Nes Harim moshav, tucked in the Judean Hills just outside of Jerusalem.

The Bridges for Peace representatives who visited Nes Harim last week comprised a group of people from all over the world with one message for these Jewish Ukrainians who have seen so much hardship.

“No one is forgotten,” Patrick Verbeten, Bridges for Peace’s Israel Operations Director, told the children. “Christians around the world are standing with you to let you know you are not forgotten.”

Ever since the first Russian tanks rolled into Ukraine on February 24, Bridges for Peace has been working to help in any way possible. Our Project Rescue team has been working on the ground in Moldova and other countries in the region to help as many Jewish Ukrainians as possible find safety in Israel. Thousands have already been saved, and we will continue working to save thousands more. In fact, Bridges for Peace to date has donated well over US $1 million to help Jewish people fleeing Ukraine.

Bridges for Peace has partnered with Keren HaYesod and other Jewish organizations to help fly Ukrainian Jews to safety in Israel. Our team members have stood on the tarmac to welcome Jewish refugees home. These people arrive with very little, so we have provided blankets, sheets, towels, kitchen utensils, appliances, computers, whatever is needed to make them comfortable. We stand with Jewish people wherever and whenever they are in need to show them the love of Christians from around the world. Our message remains the same: “No one is forgotten.”