It can be so deflating when one unexpectedly loses one’s job. Unfortunately, this has happened to tens of thousands of Israelis due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
In fact, one million Israelis are looking for work at present. Over 600,000 were placed on unpaid leave and are realising they will not be able to go back to their previous jobs. Not knowing where to turn next, many are seeking out job counsellors.
In our March/April magazine, we published the story “A Call of Hope” about an Israeli call center the ICEJ is supporting which aims to ease the unemployment crisis caused by the Corona pandemic and help jobless Israelis in need of support. Each person who courageously calls the helpline receives personalized support as well as practical tools and guidance from trained volunteers. For example, callers receive assistance to write a resume, prepare for job interviews, define vocational goals, and set tangible employment goals. They also receive information on their rights and how to cope with loss of income and are referred to additional resources and services.
We can now share the beautiful success story of Bracha, a single mother from southern Israel. She recently found herself unemployed after 11 years of steady work for the same company. She applied for various jobs but nothing opened up. Soon, she found herself growing frustrated and feeling worthless.
One day, she came across a Facebook ad for the call center and sent them a message, although she did not expect a response. However, the next day she received a call from Etty, one of their trained volunteers.
“I never imagined this would be the tool that would get me back into the job market! Etty listened to me, supported me, and gave me the confidence with which I eventually found a job at a local community center. Even after I started working, she kept calling me once a week, at a set time, to see how I was doing. I felt comfortable enough with her to share that I was not happy at this job. She didn’t judge me, but also didn’t sugar-coat the situation. She reminded me that things were tough for everyone, but that they would get better. With her support I kept working there while also applying for other jobs, and after some time got hired as a Finance Coordinator for an organisation that offers legal services. I am extremely happy in this position and believe that without Etty and the Call Center, I wouldn’t be here today.”
Prior to the Coronavirus pandemic, the call center received 100 calls per month. However, this figure jumped to nearly 1,000 callers per month due to the health crisis. Emergency tech upgrades were needed to handle the increased volume of calls.
Thanks to our generous donors, the ICEJ was able to help expand the Call Center’s personnel and infrastructure so they could continue offering hope to people like Bracha.
A group of 102 Jewish immigrants arrived in Israel on April 11th on a special Aliyah evacuation flight from Kazakhstan arranged by The Jewish Agency for Israel and sponsored by the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.
Their Aliyah comes at a particularly difficult time due to corona-related health guidelines and travel restrictions, including obtaining visas and permits for flights, so the arrival of today’s planeload of olim (newcomers) from Alma Ata is a small miracle, noted one JAFI official.
Many of these new arrivals had been planning to make Aliyah months ago, but were delayed by lockdowns and global travel bans. After landing at Ben-Gurion Airport, they will be required to undergo quarantine and other measures due to corona health regulations in Israel.
Among the new arrivals is a Kazakh Jewish family with two sons who already came to Israel on study programs for high school students and completed their IDF service with distinction as lone soldiers. The mother is a journalist who worked in the past with the Israeli newspaper Mabat and as a Jewish Agency representative in Kazakhstan. She is especially excited to be closer to her grandchildren in Israel, as well as her younger sister who lives with her family in Hadera.
Another new couple is coming with their nine year-old daughter. He has degrees in engineering and economics and has worked with Volkswagen, while she has been as working as an actress, theatre teacher and TV presenter.
Another young Kazakh Jewish immigrant spent time studying abroad in London and is planning to teach English and continue his Torah learning in Jerusalem. He also is coming to reunite with his grandparents, who have already lived in Israel since 1998.
Even with most international travel still disrupted due to COVID-19, Israel and the Jewish Agency in cooperation with the ICEJ have been working to arrange emergency flights for Jewish immigrants from various regions around the world. Interest in Aliyah is actually on the rise, as many Jewish families worldwide now view Israel as safer health-wise and better positioned for economic recovery than other countries. Israeli officials anticipate up to 250,000 new Jewish immigrants to arrive over the next three to five years.
The Christian Embassy has now supported aliyah flights for over 880 Jewish olim since the start of 2021, including some 500 Ethiopian immigrants as part of “Operation Rock of Israel.”
“We are excited to help bring another large flight of Jews making their way home to Israel,” said ICEJ President Dr. Jürgen Bühler. “Despite the corona pandemic the Aliyah has not stopped, and we are especially honored to be a part of the return of so many Jewish families to the Land of Israel during this unusually difficult season. We know their lives will never be the same, and we wish all these new arrivals great success in finding their place in the Jewish homeland.”
Since its founding in September 1980, the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem has now assisted over 160,000 Jews in making Aliyah to Israel from some 36 countries worldwide. With your support, we can continue to bring Jewish families back home.
Since our inception in 1980, the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem has been active in bringing Jewish people back to the Promised Land, and in that time we have witnessed many amazing personal journeys of Jewish families making Aliyah to Israel. By sharing these unique stories, we hope to show the impact our joint endeavors are having on entire generations of Jews returning to their ancient homeland. Indeed, we are grateful to our faithful Christian friends around the world who are making it possible for the sons and daughters of Zion to come home.
Two Sundays ago, Irina Karasikova was among a group of 102 Jewish immigrants who arrived in Israel on a special Aliyah ‘evacuation flight’ from Kazakhstan sponsored by the Christian Embassy.
Irina first visited Israel back in 1996 and fell in love with the country. That trip deeply impacted the lives of her and her two sons, Mikhail and Eugene. It was her sons who proved to be the determined younger generation who first paved the way back home. Now, after 25 years of waiting, their mother has joined them in their true homeland.
Irina’s parents moved to Alma-Ata – capital of the Kazakh republic – in 1953, after graduating from universities in Odessa. From her birth, Irina knew about her Jewish roots. “My family never hid the fact that we were Jewish,” Irina noted. However, her first steps in learning about the history of her ancestors, and about Israel occurred in 1996 when she helped as a journalist to prepare the first issues of the Israeli newspaper Mabatfor publication in Kazakhstan. Then her eldest son Mikhail took part in a Jewish children’s camp where Irina came with a video team and filmed an interesting story that was broadcast on national TV.
In the same year, Irina visited Israel for the first time. She was sent there by the Jewish Agency for Israel to accompany a group of 150 children from Alma-Ata who were taking part in a special study program. “I fell in love with Israel when I first arrived in this wonderful country and saw tall palm trees on the way from the airport,” Irina recalled.
Since that time, Irina’s life and career have been closely linked to Aliyah work as a Jewish Agency representative in Kazakhstan.
“My eldest son Mikhail began participating in all youth activities of the Jewish Agency since 1997 and worked as a madrichat the Sunday School at the Israeli Embassy in Kazakhstan,” said Irina. In 1999, at the age of 16, Mikhail went to study in Israel. Then he served three years in the Israeli Air Force, after which he entered the university in Ariel. He received his higher education as an electrical engineer. Now Mikhail and his wife and two daughters, four-year-old Liel and one-year-old Talya, live in Ariel.
The younger son Eugene followed in the footsteps of his older brother when he went to study in Israel at age 14. After finishing high school, Eugene went to serve as a soldier in the combat unit “Nahal”, rising to a platoon commander and graduating from the officers’ school. When Eugene was 25, he was promoted to major and served in the army for nine-and-a-half years in total. The army provided him with the opportunity to study and receive a bachelor’s degree in political science. After his army service, he received a master’s degree in business consulting. Now Eugene works as a project coordinator in a start-up company and lives in Tel Aviv.
Irina raised wonderful sons who became responsible, contributing citizens of Israel. Throughout her life, she has been helping many Jews to get acquainted with their homeland and to move there. Now, it was her turn to go home to live in the land of her ancestors.
“I had thoughts about repatriation to Israel for a long time, but now the time had come,” Irina confided. “I want to be close to my sons and grandchildren, to help them and rejoice in their successes.”
So she followed in her sons’ footsteps to Israel. And just recently, her youngest granddaughter took her first steps, here in the Promised Land. Now, the Karasikova family will be able to share many more beautiful moments together in Israel.
This special Aliyah evacuation flight from Kazakhstan sponsored by the ICEJ helped Irina and dozens of other families reach Israel to start a new life near their families and fellow Jews. Let us continue to support Aliyah in order to make an impact in lives today and in the generations to come.
It was shocking to hear the news that Fatou Bensouda, the outgoing chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, has proceeded to open an official war crimes probe against Israel – a move which is immoral, unjustified, and beyond the court’s authority. Her decision is itself a crime against the Jewish people, and saddles the Court with the stigma of having initiated a modern-day blood libel against Israel.
The International Criminal Court in The Hague was established by the international community via the ‘Rome Statute’ two decades ago to investigate and prosecute the most heinous crimes under international law, including genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression. It was meant as a ‘court of last resort’ with limited jurisdiction, trying only those atrocities referred to it by ICC member states or whenever those nations were unwilling or unable to try the perpetrators under their own judicial systems.
The ICC was founded after the world witnessed horrendous acts of genocide in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s. Special ad hoc tribunals were created to deal with the atrocities committed in those conflicts, which occurred despite countless declarations of “Never Again” uttered in the wake of the Holocaust – the methodical campaign to annihilate the Jews of Europe during World War II. After that war, a group of senior Nazi officials were tried at the Nuremberg tribunal – the first instance of an international criminal investigation and trial for what they referred to as the new crime of “genocide.”
Against this backdrop, it is completely absurd that the ICC has decided to investigate the only Jewish state for possible war crimes committed “on the territory of Palestine”. The Nazi war crimes against the Jews shocked the conscience of the world, yet now the laws and forums set up to deal with such reprehensible acts are being unjustly turned into a weapon against the Jewish state. Israel’s purported “crimes” actually consist of either acting in self-defense against deliberate Palestinian terrorist attacks targeting Israeli civilians, or in building Jewish homes and schools in politically disputed territories over which the Jewish people have valid legal and historic claims of their own.
The path for the ICC chief prosecutor to open her investigation was cleared in early February by a pre-trial chamber of the Court, which ruled that the Court has the jurisdiction needed to act on this matter. That narrow decision (two judges to one) is shameful, wrong and destructive – both legally, morally and practically.
As the dissenting judge pointed out, considerable legal acrobatics were required to arrive at this biased decision. It pretends that just by its association with the Court, the entity of ‘Palestine’ is a state – even though it does not satisfy the accepted legal criteria for statehood under international law. It also pretends that this Palestine has jurisdiction over the people of Israel, even though the Oslo Accords signed by both parties expressly exempts Israel’s citizens from their reach. No wonder that Hungarian judge Peter Kovács, the dissenting member of the pre-trial chamber, noted that “neither the Majority's approach nor its reasoning is appropriate in answering the question before this chamber,” and “they have no legal basis in the Rome Statute, and even less so, in public international law.”
What then are the main flaws of the decision?
First, it blurs the line between politics and law. The ICC has relied on political proclamations of the UN General Assembly, ignoring the fact that these non-binding resolutions are of a political, not legal, nature. It is clear that the Court is harming its reputation by allowing such politicization. What is even worse, it ignores established principles of international law when the Court decided that ‘Palestine’ can be considered a state. Palestine does not meet the criteria for statehood laid down in the well-accepted Montevideo Convention, which requires that a state must possess a permanent population, a defined territory, a government, and the capacity to conduct international relations. It should be in the interest of all the signatory governments to the Rome Statute to uphold the integrity and reputation of the Court.
Second, the Court, in trying to answer the question to which territory its jurisdiction extends, has in fact defined the borders of Palestine, which is most certainly not its role to do. Moreover, in doing so, it has accepted the maximalist Palestinian territorial claims, which include all of Gaza, the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem, without even considering Israel’s position and its well-founded claims to these disputed territories. By doing this, the Court prejudged the outcome of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, which is the only mechanism that can settle the dispute and define the borders. Such an approach by the Court rewards Palestinian intransigence and undermines the prospects for peace. Most governments publicly support a negotiated settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, so it should be in their interests to point out that the decision goes against their long-held policy.
Third, the Court has disregarded the Oslo Accords, which stipulate that the Palestinian Authority has no jurisdiction over Israelis anywhere in the disputed territories. Therefore, even if it was considered a state party to the ICC, the Palestinian Authority cannot offer jurisdiction over Israeli citizens to the Court because it does not have any itself. By ignoring these valid Oslo commitments, the Court has jeopardized the binding nature of international agreements in general. In particular, the witnesses to the Oslo Accords (the USA, European Union, Norway and Russia) should voice their alarm at such a ruling.
Fourth, the majority on the three-judge panel chose to completely ignore the opinion of seven States Parties (Australia, Austria, Brazil, the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Uganda), which insisted that Palestine does not fulfill the criteria for statehood. Their involvement is unprecedented as they did not make their submissions in their own defense but rather weighed in on an issue which does not directly involve them. It can be argued that they did so because they felt it was a matter of principle. They made their submissions already a year ago and after the flawed decision of the pre-trial chamber had been announced, they publicly repeated their original objections. These countries certainly have an interest to continue pursuing their cause at the ICC, which they can do by bringing it to the attention of the ICC’s governing Assembly of States Parties.
At the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, we believe it is our duty to raise our voices in defense of truth and moral clarity. Though access to the judges of the ICC is minimal, we plan to approach the States Parties to the ICC (the 123 countries which have ratified the Rome Statute) to make clear our objections to this untenable investigation of Israel.
The ICEJ also will be launching a global petition addressed to the ICC’s Assembly of States Parties, calling on their governments to challenge the admissibility of this case and the Court’s lack of jurisdiction. Furthermore, we will be calling upon activists in these countries to lobby their governments in defense of Israel. The lobbying efforts and global petition will hopefully testify to widespread popular concern over the issue, which the relevant governments will have to take into account.
Geroge Orwell is quoted as saying: “Sometimes the first duty of intelligent men is the restatement of the obvious.” It is time not to allow the obvious overreach by the Court to be blurred by political bias against Israel.
Within four kilometers of Israel’s northern border with Lebanon, the village of Hurfeish is home to a mix of Israeli Druze and Christians. The Druze minority are exceptionally loyal to Israel and consider it a great honor to serve in the Israeli Defense Force (IDF). Many continue in security professions after completing their service with the IDF.
While the Druze and Christian residents of Hurfeish live in peaceful coexistence, the community does face a serious external threat. They live under the constant fear that Hezbollah terrorists operating freely on the Lebanese side of the nearby border will decide to fire rockets into Israel, with Hurfeish right in the line of fire! They literally have seconds to find shelter.
Israel’s entire northern border region is hilly, forested terrain dotted with picturesque villages like Hurfeish. The area is home to around 250,000 residents – an ethnic mosaic of Jewish, Druze and Arab Christian towns and farming communities. One thing they all have in common is a lack of adequate bomb shelters for the local inhabitants.
During a recent spike in tensions with Hizbullah across the border, local council heads learned that the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem had placed over 110 portable bomb shelters in Israeli communities along the volatile southern border with Gaza. So they invited an ICEJ delegation to visit the area and consider donating shelters in the North as well.
After assessing the need, the ICEJ decided that Hurfeish would be the first village to receive shelters. The heartbeat of Hurfeish is its community cultural center. Usually a hive of activity, it is comprised of an outdoor sports complex and the indoor community center which hosts public events, daily activities, and educational courses. Through the generous donations received from our Christian supporters, the ICEJ recently was able to place two bomb shelters at the facility, giving peace of mind to those who use and enjoy it.
Unfortunately, the delivery of the bomb shelters was not without incident. As the truck carrying the two heavy portable bomb shelters made its way through the hills on the way up to Hurfeish, the driver had to break and swerve to avoid a motorcyclist who suddenly cut in front of him. The biker was spared any harm, but the truck’s heavy load – each shelter weighing 23 metric tons - went flying into a nearby field! Thankfully, no one was injured, but the shelters were now flat on their sides.
A police investigation ensued, while an independent engineer examined the shelters for structural damage. To our relief, the damage was only cosmetic, confirming the resilience of these shelters to protect lives! After repainting the bomb shelters, they soon were re-loaded onto a truck and safely delivered to the eagerly awaiting Hurfeish community.
Nicole Yoder, ICEJ Vice President of Aid and Aliyah, was thrilled to finally see the shelters in place next to the cultural center and the adjacent sports field, complete with dedication plaques crediting ICEJ-Germany for the donations that made it possible.
Hurfeish also has a village church where local Arab Christians congregate and participate in activities. The ICEJ hopes to embark on a second project in this village, which will see additional shelters being installed at other defenseless sites.
The need remains acute, as Lebanon is in the midst of an unprecedented economic crisis due to Hizbullah’s misuse of public funds, and some analysts believe the Shi’ite terror militia may seek to extricate itself by starting a war with Israel. The IDF is holding a large training exercise this very week to prepare for such a conflict, but the local residents need more time to install shelters.
A recent State Comptroller report warned that 2.6 million residents of northern Israel do not have access to functional bomb shelters. The need is most acute in the towns right along the border, where shorter range rockets cannot be stopped by the IDF’s Iron Dome batteries. These villages are desperately looking for funding to provide better protection for their communities, and the ICEJ is grateful for our friends worldwide who are enabling us to offer them these urgently-needed bomb shelters.
Please consider a generous donation to help protect the vulnerable communities of northern Israel.
"Comfort, comfort my people says your God" Isaiah 40