As they travel along the roads of Israel, she tells her story of escape. How she recently fled from one place to another in Ukraine, with tense delays between each stop. How a two-hour car trip took twelve hours. When she crossed the border to safety in Poland, she still had to rely on the goodness of strangers for a few days. Going through something like this, Homecare nurse Corrie van Maanen, could hardly imagine. She glances at the passenger in her Homecare car, who is eating the lunch Corrie provided with relish. How long since she last ate, Corrie wonders.
But then Corrie hears something that has stayed with her.
“I knew from the first minute I put my feet on this path of escape, that the God of Israel was with me, every step of this scary journey”, her passenger assures her.
Energodar is a city in Ukraine with a large nuclear plant nearby and for months it was impossible to get out of the embattled town.
Katya, a Ukrainian Jewish immigrant had come to Israel with her husband several years ago. The newlywed couple had married young and soon had three children. The marriage came under strain leading to separation. It was at this difficult season that ICEJ Homecare came into her life with practical and financial help to support her.
Homecare received an excited call from Katya to report that her mother whom she’d missed greatly was on her way from Ukraine. A week later she called again from her home in Beersheba in panic. “My mother arrives tomorrow, but there is nobody who can pick her up from the airport.”
Corrie recounts what became a day of joy.
“The next day I drive to the airport with a photo Katya had given me”, she said. “The doors of the Arrivals Hall opened and closed while I waited with expectation. Suddenly I spotted a lady coming through the door alone. She looked tired and was obviously looking for someone she did not know. The moment we recognised each other, there was relief! After a big hug, and tears from the pressure of past days, she was suddenly lifted in the knowledge that she was safe. She was in Israel.”
Sadly, her husband and her son and his family are still in Ukraine. But once she arrived in Beersheba at her daughter’s home it was an emotional reunion. No words could express the feeling of that precious moment, but within the tears of joy and hugs were a thousand words unspoken.
Driving back to Jerusalem, Corrie was reflected on the character of Homecare.
“It is all about relationships”, she explained. “It’s all about stepping in where we see the need. It is so much more than nursing care and may cost time and effort like today’s mission. For one mother and daughter we made the difference.”
A few days later, Katya’s mother heard that her city came under a huge rocket attack, with the neighbour’s house damaged and people she knew killed.
Since the war in Ukraine broke out eight months ago, the work of Homecare has taken on an extra layer. It is not only providing immigrants with assistance in coping with daily life in Israel, with all its challenges, but also listening to the stories of family members and friends living in a war-torn country. We only understand in part what it means to live in a war zone with no certainty of tomorrow. But we do know well the calling we have to comfort the Jewish people, especially in this time of need.
Many new arrivals from Ukraine and Russia are suffering from trauma and emotional pain. Israel has the challenge to step in with the right help. Our challenge from the nations is to pray and to give, to be part of this urgent and increasing Aliyah and their integration into Israeli society.