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  • Orly Wohlstein explaining about the "Bridges of Israel" in the Jewish communities of Severodonetsk, Kremenchug and Mirgorod.
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First Home: The Exodus is going on!

Orly Vohlstein - 17 April 2019

Shalom dear Friends,

A special feast of Passover is almost there. The Exodus from Egypt lies in the past, but the Exodus from the four corners of the world is happening right now! I recently returned from one very remote “corner” and I want to share my impressions with you. We visited Ukraine and we were on our way to the Jews in the East, severely damaged by the ongoing war.

Normally we know the flight from Tel-Aviv to Harkov from the opposite direction, when we are meeting new Olim from the region of the Eastern Ukraine who come via First Home in the Homeland to have a soft landing in one of the Israeli kibbutzim. But this time I took a plane back to Ukraine.

“Bridges of Israel” – is a project of the Jewish Agency together with Ofek Israeli, that brings Israeli experts even to small Jewish communities in the diaspora. This month I was also involved in the events of the “Bridges” in the Jewish communities of Severodonetsk, Kremenchug and Mirgorod.

“What I learned from this war is that until something happens to you personally, you can never understand it”, said Irina from Severodonetsk, a town from the East of Ukraine. I can still remember this town. It used to be a developed industrial centre in the days of my childhood. We used to pass it every summer on the way to my grandparents. A huge factory that provided employment to almost sixty per cent of the population is now closed and corroded. The roads turned into a mess, abandoned villages on the side, and only packs of dogs run around looking for something to eat. Lisichansk – another important industrial city – what happened to this building in the centre? It was destroyed during the war, our driver Andrey says with a sigh, and now people are digging in the rubble hoping to find anything valuable.

Destruction in the city of Lisichansk

Our trip from Harkiv to the Jewish community in Severodonetsk lasted about seven hours, while normally it takes about four hours. Multiple check points with military forces appear to be new on this road. A soldier opens my Israeli passport, looks at me with surprise. What is the aim of your visit? Shall I explain him about the meeting with the Jewish community that is already waiting for us in a small hall in Severodonetsk?

“Our children are in Israel, our grandchildren are in Israel”, Semion , 73 years old, explains to me. But we never thought about aliyah until the war started”. Tania, a nine year old daughter of one of the community members, who listened to my story so attentively, drew us a picture – Long live Israel! Hopefully next time we will meet Semion, Tania and many other olim after their aliyah and we will be able to welcome them in Israel!

Tania showing her picture

Now I’m back in Israel to prepare for the feast of Passover, one of the most remarkable Jewish holidays, when we celebrate the Exodus from Egypt but also every other single Exodus from the four corners of the world, that is happening right now!

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