• During a five month evacuation these brave and strong people managed to keep studying Hebrew under very limited conditions, ultimately leading to their farewell party marking the end of Ulpan | Photo: JAFI
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“We are not just a program but a family…” – First Home Update

Valeria - 8 March 2024

“…but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not be faint” (Isaiah 40:31).

This is what a Hebrew teacher of one of our groups from the Shaar Ha Negev Regional Council said on the Ulpan “graduate party”.

On February 29th they completed their Ulpan as all our groups usually do. However, that case was unique, because those brave and strong people had been in evacuation for 5 months and managed to stay afloat and keep studying Hebrew under very limited conditions – one cramped hotel room, 1 to 3 children, Zoom studying 5 hours a day, 24/7 together. Some of them are still staying in Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv hotels, others have come back to a kibbutz.

Farewell party to mark the end of Ulpan | Photo: JAFI

“Of course and unfortunately, no one had any instructions for October 7th”

It all started when ten young families joined us in two kibbutzim near the Gaza Strip border in August 2023 – kibbutz Nir Am (800 meters from the border) and kibbutz Or Ha Ner (2 km from the border). They were well-prepared for any unexpected situation and had been instructed how to act in case of emergency.

Of course and unfortunately, no one had any instructions for October 7th. The families entrusted to our care were on their Sukkot vacation (i.e. Feast of Tabernacles), looking forward to their following class on Sunday. “Black Shabbat” disrupted all their plans. They locked themselves in their safe rooms, being scared to come out to have some food or water. For some time, we had no connection with them because of lack of the Internet and electricity.

It was a blessing that the terrorists were unable to get inside.

Kibbutzim Nir Am and Or Ha Ner on the map | Photo: JAFI

After a day of horror, our families were brought to Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv on October 8th.

First day in evacuation. The group from kibbutz Or Ha Ner with their coordinator Slava | Photo: JAFI

Honestly, we had no idea whether they wanted to stay as a part of the program or independently, or to leave the country.  The first message “Don’t worry, they are safe now. Could you arrange remote studying for them?” from their coordinator Slava was a real surprise for us.

The matter was that they didn’t feel abandoned from the very first minute. Volunteers, coordinators, kibbutz dwellers and the Jewish Agency for Israel representatives took care of them and did everything to keep them updated. Their Hebrew teacher came to the hotels to cheer them up. And of course, our friends from Christians for Israel also visited them, prayed for them, and gave them huge support and stood beside them as friends.


Meeting with Roger Van Oordt and Koen Carlier in Jerusalem | Photo: JAFI


By the way, during that wonderful and important day they were also with us at a distance. Thank you for being with us! | Photo: JAFI


Unusual lesson in the Hotel – Nir Am group with their teacher | Photo: JAFI

“”First Home in the Homeland” is above all about people, community, assistance, friendship and family”

That is why we are convinced that “First Home in the Homeland” is not about the place, but above all about people, community, assistance, friendship and family. Not only were they supported by the program, the kibbutzim, and the Jewish Agency but they also helped us not to give up during these dark times.

It was a privilege for us to be able to congratulate them on passing their final test, the first important step they took here. We are grateful to them for choosing the program and to all the people who provided them with love and kindness.

Let’s wish them “Behatzlacha” (Good luck) in their new life in the Promised Land!


Trip to nature together | Photo: JAFI


After the “Graduation party”, the families visited former program director Elena Kovarsky in kibbutz Mashabei Sadeh | Photo: JAFI

Please support the “First Home in the Homeland” Project. Any amount is welcome!
Assisting a family in the “First Home” program costs € 230 euro / US $ 250 a month.

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