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Biblical understanding about Israel
During my trips to the airport in Kiev I have a lot of time to think. I was thinking of exactly 20 years ago, when I had just arrived in the Ukraine. I was able to be involved in the project ‘Exobus’. Together with Polish driver Victor, I could pick up a large coach with olim (immigrants to Israel) in Vinnitsa, Berdidjev and Zhitomir. I was full of excitement during that trip. Since that time, numerous drivers have helped to assist Jews in returning to Israel.
20 years later, we make the trip with the same excitement. We drive through the Ukraine, outside the wind is ice cold, there is hardly any traffic, so we drive in the middle of the road, which is the best. At last we reach Chmilnik. Last Wednesday we took an elderly couple that lives here to the Israeli embassy for their visa. The Jewish Agency in Vinnitsa had arranged for them to leave from Kiev airport on Tuesday evening at 8 pm. We arrive at a typical Ukrainian home and see the 76-year-old Abrahamov and his wife Valentina. They are waiting for us. We are 45 minutes late, which is quite normal here.
Abrahamov and Valentina carry their belongings
Saying goodbye to family is the most emotional part of making aliyah
Valentina says goodbye to her sister and we drive to Kiev in about 12 hours. There is a lot of snow, we are used to half a meter of snow, but right now there is about a meter of snow! Abrahamov and Valentina are quiet, you can see the anxiety on their faces. We talk very little, we don’t listen to the news, but we play some music. It is hard to drive with the strong wind and the roads are slippery. Abrahamov is holding on to his cell phone the whole time. I wonder why.
We have a break in Zhitomir, and Valentina prepares sandwiches for us. It is very common for the olim to bring lunch and share it with the drivers. When we continue driving I ask some questions to Abrahamov. I ask him: “were you born in Chmilinik?.” He responds: “No, I was born in of Azerbaijan in the capital Baku.” “So this means you are a Mountain Jew?” He nods. The Jews in Azerbaijan, Georgia and the Caucasus are called Mountain Jews to this very day. But in the time of the Soviet Union he had to join the army and ended up in Chmilnik, got married and stayed there. Abrahamov and his wife have two children, a son and a daughter, who both made Aliyah 20 years ago. There three grandchildren are Sabra’s (which means they were born in Israel). Abrahamov says: “Yes, it is much too late, but we are finally going. Nobody needs us in the Ukraine.”
“You have a beautiful name, Abrahamov! Do you now the history of Abraham who was called 5,000 years ago?” “Of course,” he responds. I explain: the history is repeating itself, still people are being called to return to the land of their ancestors!” For the first time I see them smile.
We approach Kiev and the tension is rising in our mini-bus. Suddenly the cell phone of Abrahamov rings; it is a phone call from Israel. “Hello dad, are you alright? Where are you, already in Kiev?” Valentina listens attentively. “Everything is going well my son, we are in good hands. We only have to drive for half an hour, and then we are at the airport.” When he hangs up the phone I see a big smile on their faces.
The phone call from Israel
Right before we arrive I give them our brochure, which includes Bible verses that speak about the return to Israel. Abrahamov shares: “I am the last one to leave, no one of my family stays behind.” It is so special, that on a day like this, Abrahamov is the last one to leave.
We arrive at Kiev airport and Misha of the Jewish Agency is already waiting for us with instructions. We say goodbye to Abrahamov and Valentina.
I ask Misha: “How is the situation?” He shares: “The Jewish Agency receives more and more phone calls with worried people that do not have their passport and other paper work ready. We also tell the people that are scheduled to leave for Israel in February, March, April or May that they can leave the Ukraine sooner if they want to.
We hug Abrahamov and Valentina for the last time. They were lost in the diaspora, but now they may return home in safety, and be with their children and grandchildren.
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