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An Aliyah flight that saved a life

Help ICEJ fill another Aliyah 'evacuation flight'

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Posted on: 
9 Jul 2020
An Aliyah flight that saved a life

Israel has always been open to Jews wanting to return home, even during the Corona crisis, although it does take time to document one’s Jewish heritage. But for one Russian Jewish family who arrived last week, there was no time to waste. Their seven year-old son was battling lymphatic cancer and needed life-saving treatments in Israel. So they were fast-tracked for citizenship in only one week’s time, and the young boy arrived on June 30th on a rescue flight sponsored by the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem. His story is one of a miracle still in the making.

Since late February, the ICEJ has managed to bring over 1,100 Jewish immigrants home to Israel on Aliyah flights arranged by the Jewish Agency. With most global travel halted, these “evacuation flights” are allowed to bring new immigrants already approved for Israeli citizenship. Those on board are being given priority due to urgent health concerns, rising antisemitism, and poor socio-economic conditions. For the Zheleznyak family, their situation indeed was desperate.

Their troubles began some 18 months ago when Boris Zheleznyak and his wife learned their son Maxim had acute leukemia. “Still, the local doctors said that there was nothing to worry about, there was a 95% chance of success,” Boris told Israeli media this week.

Maxim began treatment in one of Russia’s best hospitals, and his parents devoted all their strength to caring for him, as his mother even left her work.

“Many now complain about how difficult it is to get through quarantine. For our family it has been going on for a year and a half. In order not to bring infection into the house, we refused to meet with relatives and friends. Our whole life was divided between the house and the hospital,” said Boris.

Like many cancer patients, brief signs of improvement in Maxim’s condition gave way to setbacks and long days of despair, which were only worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic. When recent test results showed a return of the cancer, they started searching for more aggressive treatments, such as a bone marrow transplant. It soon became obvious that the answer could only be found abroad.

Then a friend told them about another Jewish family who were in a similar situation. They had made Aliyah to Israel and were now receiving treatments at the Schneider Children’s Hospital, in Petah Tikvah. So on June 20, Boris wrote a letter to the Jewish Agency with a desperate plea: Let us enter Israel to save our son.


Boris was not so optimistic. But the next day he received a call from the local Jewish Agency representative, who said: “We Israelis never leave children without help.” He then did everything possible to ensure the Zheleznyak family’s paperwork was quickly completed in both Israel and Russia.

Miraculously, in just four days, the anxious family had received their passports, and four days later they were on a flight bound for Tel Aviv sponsored by the Christian Embassy.

When the Zheleznyak family landed on June 30, they were met at the airport by Jewish Agency staff. Maxim and his parents were taken through the “green corridor,” and presented with official documents for new arrivals and even medical insurance.

“When will the insurance become active?” – the parents asked nervously. “Like all olim, from the very moment you receive it,” they were told.

The Zheleznyak family still do not believe they are already in Israel, it has all happened so fast.

“On June 16, we received dramatic test results that Maxim’s cancer has gotten worse, and two weeks later we landed at Ben Gurion airport,” Boris explained. “This is a real miracle, because we did not even have passports for international travel... No country in the world would ever grant us citizenship this way, in a matter of days.”

“For the first time after a year and a half of a desperate struggle for the life of our son, we have hope for salvation,” Boris concluded.

Facing a life-threatening disease, amid a global pandemic, with nearly all flights cancelled, and normally staring at months and months of immigration paperwork, the Zheleznyak family is truly in the midst of a miracle. But now they need our continued prayers, that young Maxim will finally beat cancer and grow up healthy and happy in Israel. 



There are also many more Jewish families intensely longing to reach Israel amid the Corona crisis. Thanks to Christian donors around the world, the ICEJ has managed to bring over 1,100 Jewish immigrants home to Israel on Aliyah flights so far this year. That is a remarkable rate of some 250 olim (newcomers) per month even during the Corona shutdowns.


  With all the economic instability and rising antisemitism worldwide, we are now challenging our friends and supporters to help us maintain that pace in the critical months ahead, when Aliyah is expected to increase. Please join our ‘Rescue250’ campaign! Help us to fly another 250 Jews to Israel in the month of July.

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