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The City of Zaporizhzhia is Burning

Koen Carlier - 11 October 2022

Last Thursday night the air-raid alert went off, as is the case regularly lately. Via broadcast towers people are warned to take shelter. When the danger is gone an announcement is made that the situation is safe again.

“There was huge panic in the city. For the first time, seven Russian missiles had hit the city centre”

Missile attacks
A few hours later, early in the morning, we received a few recorded messages from Rabbi Ehrentreu from Zaporizhzhia. There was huge panic in the city. For the first time, seven Russian missiles had hit the city centre. The missiles had landed on residential blocks. Besides the massive damage, there were seven fatalities.

A friend texted me and wrote: ‘It won’t be a second Mariupol, will it?’ I fear it may unfortunately be heading in that direction. For several weeks, the outskirts of Zaporizhzhia were bombed almost daily. Since this week, however, missiles have been fired indiscriminately at residential areas in the centre of this large city of over a million inhabitants.

This Friday morning it happened again. Three missiles landed in densely populated residential areas, near the main synagogue.


From February 24, the beginning of the war, we evacuated hundreds of Jews from Zaporizhzhia and the surrounding area. This included especially many Jews from the city of Mariupol. Most recently, we were in Zaporizhzhia for a working visit and brought over 5,000 kilos of food parcels. In doing so, we called on the Jewish community to leave while they still could. But what has happened in the past few days, even we did not expect.

The Christians for Israel team in Ukraine are on standby day and night to evacuate Jews | Photo: Christians for Israel

We immediately informed the rabbi that we are ready to come at any time with our big evacuation bus or our smaller mini vans. We are on standby 24/7. When it comes to saving lives, driving on Sabbath is allowed, no is necessary, Chief Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs told me.

“Will this be the last Feast of Tabernacles in the Diaspora for the Jews of Zaporizhzhia?”

Captain Rabbi Ehrentreu
It is war in Zaporizhzhia and southeast Ukraine and we are preparing to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles. The call sounds to remember in the Tabernacle the mighty deeds of the Lord and realize that we are safe with Him.

Will this be the last Feast of Tabernacles in the Diaspora for the Jews of Zaporizhzhia? Will Rabbi Ehrentreu himself also call on his large and especially elderly Jewish congregation to ‘leave while you still can’? Fortunately, the rabbi and his wife Dina are on the ground and will help where needed. He also knows that if evacuation is needed, his friends from the nations are ready to help in a practical way!

You hear from many people that they hope all will be well and the war will end soon. We hope this too, but we are a bit more pessimistic. Yet, of course, we sincerely hope that we are wrong.

The Jewish families of  Zaporizhzhia are now living in fear and dread, contemplating what to do. Stay, flee to western Ukraine or repatriate to Israel? Our team, meanwhile, continues to evacuate Jews. For now, several escape routes are already planned towards Moldova. In addition, two drivers will take a large group to Budapest (Hungary) next week.

Israel’s prophets have clear opinions and advice on the situation, such as the well-known verse from Isaiah 43:5-6:

“Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bring your children from the east and gather you from the west. I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’ and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’ Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth—”

Our work in Ukraine
Our team brings mostly Jewish elderly people and mothers with their children from the war zone to Israel via Moldova. As temperatures begin to drop in Ukraine, there comes a time to decide: “Will I try to survive without basic necessities, or will I choose to flee?” It is especially difficult for the elderly to leave their familiar surroundings. We try to support and encourage them to leave for Israel. It costs €135 to help a Jewish refugee from Ukraine make aliyah. Will you help? Any amount is welcome. Thank you in advance for your support!

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