Some 150 members of the Zhytomyr Jewish community from north-west Ukraine landed in Israel on Sunday on a special El Al flight from Romania. Among them were 60 children from the Alumim Jewish orphanage and boarding school in Zhytomyr. Two more flights also landed at Ben Gurion International Airport later that day.
The olim were welcomed by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Minister of Aliyah and Integration Pnina Tamano-Shata, Minister of the Interior Ayelet Shaked, Minister of Finance Avigdor Lieberman and other state dignitaries.
Many Israelis were waiting outside the arrivals hall in anticipation of the Ukrainian olim.
“We heard that flights with [Ukrainian] Jews were arriving to Israel, of refugees from the Ukraine, of course we had to be at Ben Gurion to show our support,” said Rachel, an 11th grade teacher at the Har Bracha religious high school.
“We wanted to be the first faces they would meet here. We ordered a bus and made signs in Ukrainian using Google Translate,” she added excitedly.
“We are eager to see how they are holding up, how their spirits are. We will of course be flexible and understanding with how they are emotionally – but hopefully they know that there is a country here for them is important to both them and us.”
In a statement, Minister Tamano-Shata said: “We’ve conveyed to the Jews of Ukraine that Israel will be a warm home for them. We are prepared to receive tens of thousands of Jews from Ukraine and Russia, and will provide for them the best we can.”
After landing, the olim in Israel were processed by the Ministry of Aliyah and Integration and received initial aliyah benefits for acclimating. The Ministry of Absorption will refer the olim to immediate and temporary housing solutions in hotels, which they have prepared in advance as part of the emergency plan for their absorption.
Operation “Israeli Guarantee” is a joint operation with the Ministry of Aliyah and Integration, the Jewish Agency, the Fellowship Foundation and with the assistance of donations from the Jewish Federations of North America, the Keren Hayesod and donors and friends of Israel from around the world.
This article was translated from Hebrew by Zak Newbart.