A hymn written by William Cowper in 1773 says ‘God moves in mysterious ways.’ It is a phrase from his poem ‘Light Shining in Darkness’ a very appropriate heading for Aliyah, 2020.
Aliyah describes the act of going up “ascent”. Originally it referred to Jews going up to Jerusalem for three major Biblical feasts—Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles. Today Aliyah refers to Jews relocating from the four corners of the world to live in Israel. The Bible actually reports Two Returns.
Jeremiah Declared the First:
‘This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfil my good promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”’ – Jeremiah 29: 10,11
Ezra described the fulfilment of Jeremiah (Ezra 1: 1-4) through the edict of Cyrus. King of Persia.
Jeremiah says God spoke emphatically of the Second Return. “I will restore them to the land I gave their ancestors.” (Jeremiah 16: 16b) The intention is made very clear:
“I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them and will bring them back to their pasture, where they will be fruitful and increase in number.” – Jeremiah 23: 3
All of this is very relevant today in the light of the devastation cause by the COVID 19 pandemic. There is great ‘Light in this Darkness.’
In June 2020 Nefech B’Nefesh (Hebrew meaning ‘soul to soul”) signed the Israeli airline El Al for 14 ‘Group Aliyah Flights’ from New York to be filled over three months. In June 2019 Nefesh B’Nefesh totalled 399 applicants. This year they recorded more than 900! The Jewish Agency has also recorded significant numbers particularly from North America and France.
The International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem (ICEJ) has been proactive assisting Aliyah applicants. This year ICEJ has sponsored 1000 Jewish immigrants to Israel as at June. 57 arrived from Russia on one flight.
An ICEJ news release said:
“As global air travel has ground to a halt over recent months, many in Israel were expecting a pause in Jewish immigration due to the COVID-19 threat. But surprisingly the door of Aliyah has remained open, as interest in moving to Israel is on the rise. Many Jewish families worldwide even have decided to move up plans to immigrate to a country they view as safer and better positioned for economic recovery.
In response, Israeli and Jewish Agency officials have managed to arrange ‘evacuation flights’ over the past three months which are bringing the new immigrants home to Israel, in line with its history as a nation always open to Jewish immigration.”
Even with most regular international flights still suspended, Israel and the Jewish Agency have been working to partner in emergency flights from nations around the world, which are bringing back stranded Israeli citizens as well as Jews from abroad who are approved for immigration to Israel.
Many of these recent Jewish arrivals are coming from regions of the former Soviet Union, where the local economies are struggling and the Corona threat is still peaking. Even travel within these countries is difficult and in some areas not even allowed. Yet Jewish families are making incredible efforts to board the flights for Israel. In several recent instances, pregnant mothers nearing term were determined to reach Israel in time to give birth in the Jewish homeland. And Israeli and Jewish Agency officials are exploring all avenues to safely funnel these people through airports even when most people are not allowed to fly.
The personal stories display the great passion of Aliyah. ICEJ have allowed us to observe. For Ekaterina Belyaev and her family, it was the birth of her daughter four years ago that sparked their desire to come home to Israel.
During the Soviet era, she explained, her family had suppressed their Jewish roots. But after her daughter was born in 2016, she started reading books on parenting in Russian and noticed all the best authors on the subject were Jewish. This drove her to start attending Jewish community events in Moscow and to inquire into making aliyah. Her husband was very supportive, and they were scheduled to come to Israel earlier this year. But then they got delayed by the pandemic and have been in limbo.
But now they are here, waiting for the end of their two-week quarantine and eager to start anew in the Jewish homeland.
Another new arrival, David Movsesyan, 34, knew of his family’s Jewish heritage from a young age but he only discovered in 2017 while browsing the Internet that he could move to Israel. As he collected documents to prove his Jewishness, he learned the history of his own family and now has photo albums and mementos that will preserve their memories.
“Right now, I’m sitting in quarantine in a hotel,” he said. “But I already feel a deep connection with Israel and I’m starting life anew here. I want to try something new, like a new profession, and I have a lot of dreams.”
David thanked the Jewish Agency and all the Christians who helped him make Aliyah, adding: “For the first time in my life, I feel that the state is taking care of me.”
Rabbi Yehoshua Fass, co-founder and executive director of Nefesh B’Nefesh said, “This new wave of Jews seeking to return to their homeland fills us with hope, energy and optimism. We look forward to welcoming each and every one of the slim to their new home.”