29 Mar 2016 (All day)
More than twenty five years ago, on May 28, 1990, in the early hours of the morning, the first Christian-sponsored flight of Soviet Jews arrived at Israel's Ben Gurion Airport. As the weary new immigrants descended from the El Al airplane to the sound of joyful Christians singing for their welcome, many broke into tears.
The flight was conceived and organized at the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem’s (ICEJ) National Directors’ meeting in Finland earlier that year. The ICEJ was the first organization to begin the Aliyah work while others were still praying and thinking how to help. By the end of the 1990s, the ICEJ had sponsored 53 full airplanes and brought more than 15,000 Olim home.
In 1989 the Soviet Union did not have diplomatic relations with Israel and there were no direct flights between the two countries. Dr. Ulla Järvilehto, a medical doctor and member of the Finnish parliament, sought official permission from the governments of Finland and Israel to bring the Russian Jews to Israel through her country. Ulla became the founder of the ICEJ branch in Finland and over the years worked tirelessly to establish and maintain the Finnish transit program.
The Finnish Transit
By March 10, 1990, the Finnish Aliyah route was officially opened with the approval of both governments, and it has remained open since then, even when other routes closed down during the Gulf War in 1991. For 25 years buses have been leaving St. Petersburg early in the morning for Finland to bring Jewish families to Christian homes in Finland for three days and three nights. The Finnish believers take good care of them and blessed them in many ways. Israeli officials have remarked that most Olim arrive in Israel very tired and worn out, with the exception of the ones who come by way of Finland. They land in Tel Aviv rested, happy, and full of optimism.
To date, about 117,000 Jewish people have been helped somewhere on their journey home by the ICEJ. More than 45 million dollars have been spent on bringing God’s chosen people home. Today the Finnish route is very active once again, as a result of the declining Russian economy due to low oil prices and the fallout from the Ukrainian Civil War.
The work continues with Jews from Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Uzbekistan, and the Baltic countries. Just as in the times of the Soviet outpouring, the ICEJ has responded to requests for help. In effect, the Finnish route has risen to a 10-year high and Russian Aliyah has more than doubled in recent years.
My first visit to Russia was an amazing and eye-opening experience. I got off the airplane in Moscow just three months after the official end of the Soviet Union on December 31, 1991 – nearly 25 years ago. There seemed to be a shortage of light bulbs back then. Moscow was a very dark place. Even the cars used only their parking lights at night. The stores did not have much food, and the breakfasts in our hotels were quite meager.
By October 1992, I was living in Russia full-time. At every opportunity, I spoke to Jewish people about Israel. Most of them were already in the process of getting ready to go, but there were still some who did not even want to think about it.
In the Northwest region of Russia the ICEJ team began to do advertisements in remote and unreached cities. Radio, TV, and newspaper advertising were still relatively cheap in Russia, and through this effort many people became involved. We advertised the route through Finland that was still open, and there were many Finnish Christians waiting to help the Russian Jews on their way home.
Today the majority of Jews come to Israel from the West. In the past 12 years, since 2003, more than 5,000 of them have been assisted by the ICEJ on some part their journey home. They move to Israel from North and South America, as well as Europe. In 2010, the ICEJ expanded the Aliyah from the West Program to include sponsored flights from Sweden and France. In both countries the rising tide of Muslim anti-Semitism was the reason for this assistance.
The Aliyah numbers have increased rapidly over the past few years due to wars and anti-Semitic aggression around the world. The ICEJ is leading the way in helping many more Jews come home to the land of their fathers. Please join the ICEJ in responding to this urgent need!