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The group participating in the working tour to the Ukraine consisted of fourteen participants from the Netherlands, one from Belgium and five from Germany! Jan and Gré van Dijk, who arrived on Friday evening October 16, addressed twelve of our colleagues (not all were able to attend) in the "hiding place". Then they prayed together and shared a meal! On Saturday morning we visited a refugee family from Luhansk who had left their home town permanently last Wednesday! The tour was scheduled to end on Saturday October 24.
It was memorable that we were all together for the first three days. Afterwards, starting Tuesday, Nataliya acted as guide and driver for the Germans as they distributed food parcels. It was the first time that Johathan Markovich, chief Rabbi of Kiev, and his wife Ina were present at Babi Yar. Jonathan’s grandfather survived Auschwitz. In a touching moment, Ina Markovich comforted the weeping Germans when a prayer was said at the Babi Yar ravine.
A large painting of Babi Yar hangs in the Knesset. The day-to-day contact between the Germans and the Dutch participants was good. At a mass grave containing 4,000 children and babies in Vinnitsa, we held each other’s hands. There Gré van Dijk had a vision, which she will address in her report later on, a vision of a torn wall, a small hiding place and a flower. Gré van Dijk did not really feel like going on this working tour, but in the end she asked: "May I return one more time?"
Jewish Agency workers informed us about the preparation the Jewish families make for their departure. And also about the cooperation with us - Christians for Israel - as well as the support in Israel where - amongst others - Christians for Israel sponsors the integration program known as "First Home in the Homeland".
At the morning prayer at the former shtetl in Berschad, Rijnte Raap read from Jeremiah 26 and Jeremiah 33 about destruction, restoration and marriage. Fima, who is responsible for the Jewish community in Berschad, was there to translate. I later told the group that Fima’s son made Aliyah a few years ago, and that he got married there, i.e. Israel.
We had lots of fun and there was much laughter while we did the packing, during the evenings at supper - accompanied by Jewish klezmer music - and on the final evening with Simcha! We packed 1,700 food parcels and divided into three groups, handed out all the food parcels.
In the period November, December 2015 and in January 2016 a minimum of 3,000 food parcels will be packed and handed out of which a portion will be go to Eastern Ukraine. There were eight Dutchmen for whom this was the first working tour. Klaas Kwakman was there for the fifth time, and would like to return once more to lay a "memorial stone" for the mother of Rita Schweibes, who was buried in a mass grave in Pechora with many children! Last Tuesday we, unofficially unveiled an incomplete Holocaust monument which, even if completed, we would not have been able to reach due to continuous rain and inaccessible muddy roads.
The Jewish people were thankful for their food parcels that were piled up on small carts and taken to their flats on foot! Wherever we went, we had an opportunity to say who we were, why we were in Ukraine and to share about God’s plan for return to Israel!
Different families asked for more information about making Aliyah!
In short, a very successful working tour!
Aliyah field worker Christians for Israel
Empty warehouse ready to receive food parcels
Delivery of food products for filling of 1,700 food parcels
At the edge of Baby Yar together with the chief rabbi of Kiev Jonathan and his wife Ina Markovich
In the Jewish Agency in Kiev learning more about aliyah and integration in Israel
Ina Markovich explaining at the Jewish school in Kiev
Rita Trachenberg responsible for the Jewish Agency in the Province of Vinnitsa explaining the process of aliyah and integration in Israel
Time to relax, to eat and to listen to klezmer music
Starting to load one of the vans with food parcels to distribute to small poor Jewish communities
The vans are loaded