March 30, 2016
By Roger van Oordt, Director Christians for Israel Netherlands
I am back in the Netherlands after a trip to Ukraine with Chief Rabbi Jacobs. How do you feel when you are back from the misery in Ukraine, where every minute of the day leaves an impression, that you cannot express in words.
Extreme poverty amongst Jews who still live in Ukraine; Holocaust survivors living in, what we would call, hovels with an outside toilet. While entering one of these homes, I noticed a room, which serves as a Holocaust remembrance center. Think of it as a tiny Yad Vashem.
Chief Rabbi Jacobs encourages the Jews in the loam synagogue of Berschad, and we sing ‘Shalom Chaverim’ with the Dutch volunteers. Jews who, with tears in their eyes, embrace us thankfully for all that Christians for Israel is doing for them.
After 2,000 years of separation, there are Christians, whom they know, honestly care about them. It is a close relationship. And now all of a sudden the Dutch Chief Rabbi comes over and encourages the Jewish communities in Ukraine to persevere in praying to the Eternal One, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
We go to Bratslav, where more than 60,000 Jews lived before the war. After hundreds of years of pogroms,
which ended in the massive Holocaust, they’ve virtually been eradicated. Because of the assistance and help of Christians for Israel, the few who survived are now in Israel. A great void prevails when you walk through the streets of the former Jewish Shtetl (a town with a large Jewish population). There is a large and derelict synagogue where the 30 remaining Jews can no longer gather. It lies in ruins.
Then we visit Niemirów. Previously, a 7,000 strong Jewish community. Now only a few are left. We meet Igor, the pastor of a Baptist congregation who has a warm heart for the Jewish nation. He does his best to maintain the graves of the Jewish community and a mass grave of 1,000 murdered children. This man is a light that shines in the dark. We are encouraged by him. Chief Rabbi Jacobs encourages him for the valiant and solitary work he does, together with his congregation, in taking care of the graves and the remaining Jews in Niemirów.
Next is a meeting with a 75-year old Jewish woman who, as a 2-year-old toddler, was saved from a Pechora mass grave by two Ukrainian boys. She remained an orphan, who, after a period of hiding, went from orphanage to orphanage.
Then I return home with my Jewish friend, Rabbi Jacobs. We talk about things that matter in the Netherlands. Such futilities. When you are in Ukraine, you realize that the situation is so extremely tense that Jewish persecution can erupt at any time.
People do not talk about it, but during the revolution and war in 2014, Jews were blamed. This can easily happen again. A Ukrainian song says that ‘if there is no water in the tap, then the Jews have drunk all the water.’
My prayer is that the Jewish people will soon return permanently to Israel, before the darkness covers Europe and the Ukraine.
If you do not yet believe any of this, go and experience it all firsthand by registering for the next working trip to Ukraine.
- Read more about supporting our work in Ukraine