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Sharing the Passover Table with Ukrainians in Israel

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May 3rd, 2022
  

Many Ukrainians fleeing the war arrived in Israel right before Passover, the biggest Jewish festival of the year. While obviously not in a celebratory mood, the new immigrants could however connect with the story of exodus in a unique way.

Setting the Passover Table Despite Uncertainty

The Ukrainian immigrants to Israel endured great hardships to reach their promised land. The story of Passover, described in the Haggadah which is based on Biblical records, is a story of liberation. But it starts in a place of fear and uncertainty.

After the ten plagues hit Egypt, the Israelites did not know what awaited them. But they put their trust in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Obeying the words of the Lord, they observed the first Passover hoping for a miracle.

They are great parallels between Passover and the plight of Ukrainians. Caught in a ruthless war of the powerful, they just dreamed to escape. God helped them reach the borders of neighboring countries, where many of them received aid provided by followers of the Messiah.

passover table with Ukrainian refugees

A New Day in a New Land

Earlier this Spring, REACH International together with ICF Tel Aviv has launched an initiative aptly called “House into a Home”. With help from believers from around the world, they have been equipping the new lodging spaces with essentials.

Majority of the new immigrants escaped their home country with just the clothes on their backs, maybe with a small bag that they could carry. Many have lost the saving of their lives and have nothing to navigate their new lives in the Jewish homeland.

“Remember those who are suffering as if you were suffering with them.” Hebrews 13:3b

Through the House into a Home Initiative, REACH is helping them find housing and provides kitchen appliances, furniture and bedding – the essentials at the move-in stage.

And with the holidays approaching, the local ministries turned to FIRM with a beautiful idea.

Passover Seder in Jerusalem for Ukrainians

In conjunction with ICF Tel Aviv and FIRM Israel, REACH decided to host a large Passover Seder (traditional meal) for about 80 Jewish new immigrants who had recently arrived in Israel. They were joined by volunteers from King of Kings Community. 

A large hall in the center of Jerusalem turned into a celebration venue resounding with holiday music. The tables were full of great good, so that entire families could gather in peace. But more than that. They were also reminded that the God of Israel knows and loves them.

At the event, weary Ukrainians were honored, “loved on,” and treated to a wonderful meal. Staff and volunteers from every organization, including FIRM, had an opportunity to meet and socialize with them as well. It was a privilege to serve them, especially at the time of Passover.

And what a blessing it was to hear them proclaim the famous phrase at Passover: “This year in Jerusalem!”

Yaakov (center) with Miriam next to him and other guests at the Passover Seder
Yaakov (center) with Miriam next to him and other guests at the Passover Seder

A Divine Encounter to Spread Hope

One of the attendees of the event was Yaakov, an elderly man from the city of Kharkov. He was truly fortunate to escape when he did because his hometown was heavily bombarded in March. Yaakov arrived on Israeli soil with relief.

Sadly however, soon after arriving he was hospitalized due to contracting the coronavirus. Isolated and alone, unable to communicate with the doctors or nurses, he was distraught. But God had a miraculous plan in the works that turned all this hardship for good.

At the hospital, Yaakov met Miriam from REACH International. Imagine, she just happened to be briefly hospitalized at the same ward! She helped Yaakov communicate with the doctors and they developed a warm friendship.

Miriam also reassured him that they would help his family settle in Israel. That is how Yaakov and Miriam were reunited at our Passover Seder. When he came in and saw how beautiful everything was, he wept with relief. 

Aid for Ukrainians during Passover and beyond

Yaakov was driven from his country by hate and violence, and now he was received in his new country with so much love. He told Miriam, “if your God produces people like you and all your friends, then maybe I want to believe in your God, too”.

All the families who attended the Seder are people who we have met through out House into a Home Initiative. 

Together, we can make people like Yaakov feel welcome in their new land. You also can help these people rebuild their lives after losing everything. Already more than 300 Jewish immigrants have applied for help. We do not want to turn anyone away!

Your compassion, prayers and generosity are making a life changing difference! 

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Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Estera Wieja
Estera Wieja is a journalist, book author and public speaker, focused on the topics of Israel, Jewish history, and Judeo-Christian culture. Born and raised in Poland, Estera is a regular contributor to "Our Inspirations" magazine in Poland. She holds a Bachelor degree in Communications and Media from Azusa Pacific University (California, USA), and a Master degree in Journalism from University of Warsaw, Poland. Estera has lived in Jerusalem, Israel for several years before joining the staff at FIRM in 2018.
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