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In mid-July 2014 a delegation of Christians for Israel International (Willem Glashouwer, Andrew Tucker, Koen Carlier and Marnix van Ede) met in Jerusalem with Nathan Sharansky, Chairman of the Executive of the Jewish Agency For Israel, and senior JAFI staff. The fascinating and lengthy meeting was another important step in Christians for Israel’s growing partnership with the Jewish Agency.
The Jewish Agency was established in 1929, and is charged with the task of facilitating the return of the Jewish people to Israel and the integration of new immigrants in the land. Over the past years, Christians for Israel in Ukraine has assisted over 100,000 Jews to make aliyah. A major focus has been the Ukraine, where we have jointly financed aliyah seminars throughout the country, and helped hundreds of Ukrainian Jews by bringing them to the Israeli consulate and ultimately to the airport. Christians for Israel and JAFI leaders both in Ukraine and Jerusalem are in daily contact. As tensions in Ukraine increase, we are keen to intensify our efforts to assist the Jewish people in Ukraine and other former Soviet Union countries to emigrate (make aliyah) to Israel.
Born and raised in Donetsk (currently Ukraine) Sharansky was one of the most famous leaders of the Soviet “refuseniks” – mainly Jewish intellectuals who were refused permission to leave the Soviet Union in the Cold War years. Following his arrest, conviction and subsequent imprisonment in Siberia for treason, he became the subject of an international campaign for his release. His wife Avital fought incessantly on his behalf. Many Christians protested actively throughout the Western world on behalf of Sharansky – including leading Dutch Christians like Christians for Israel founder Karel van Oordt and pioneer Pieter Benard, who led demonstrations in The Hague for Sharansky’s release. Sharansky was finally given permission to emigrate to Israel in 1987. He became a well-known author and human rights activist and politician (becoming Minister of the Israeli Cabinet from 1996-2000 and 2003-2005). He continued to promote the idea that freedom and democracy are essential for peace and security. Sharansky resigned from the Sharon cabinet in 2005 in protest against the plans to withdraw from Gaza, which he referred to – in hindsight with prophetic precision - as “a tragic mistake that will exacerbate
the conflict with the Palestinians, increase terrorism, and dim the
prospects of forging a genuine peace”. He has been Chairman of the executive of the Jewish Agency since 2009, where he has revolutionized the Agency’s approach to aliyah, emphasizing the need for education of Jews in the diaspora.
Christians for Israel believes that it is time to intensify Jewish-Christian co-operation worldwide, to enable the Jewish people to come home in even greater numbers, and to be settled and integrated into Israeli society in the land. Our co-operation in the Ukraine is a model for how we could work more closely together in other nations.
During the meeting, we shared our joint concerns about the increase of anti-semitism in Europe. The brutal, unexpected murder of two Israeli Jews in Brussels in late May shook the continent. The success of the right-wing parties – many espousing anti-Semitic attitudes - in the recent European Parliament elections is another cause for concern. We are witnessing increased aliyah across Europe, including from France. On the day of our meeting, a flight with 400 new French olim arrived in Tel Aviv.
Sharansky recounted that in his recent visit to France, he sensed a deep concern in many parts of society that the rise in anti-Semitism is a sign of the collapse of European civilization as we know it. Not only is the future of the Jewish people in Europe under threat, Europe as a democratic society based on freedom and respect for minorities is in doubt.
JAFI’s leaders expressed their appreciation for the support of Christians for Israel. “Without your support the First Home in the Homeland program would have been closed. Christians for Israel is a vital partner for the Jewish Agency in the former Soviet Union. You cannot appreciate how thankful we are”, said Yehuda Sharf, Director of Aliyah, Absorption and Special Operations.
We have agreed to focus our support for JAFI’s work in the former Soviet Union in the following areas in the coming period:
1. Continued practical and humanitarian assistance to Jewish communities in Ukraine.
2. Crisis assistance to Jewish refugees in Ukraine.
3. Expand education programs, including “aliyah seminars”.
4. Support for integration programs in Israel for new olim, including the First Home in the Homeland program.