The Journey of Starting Over

July 1, 2007
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Scripture is full of God’s promises to bring His people home to the Land He promised Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They include promises of joy with no more sorrow (Isaiah 35:10), hope for the future (Jeremiah 31:17), prosperity, health (Ezekiel 34:16), emotional healing (Psalm 147:3), ownership of land (Amos 9:15), peace (Isaiah 14:2), restoration (Zephaniah 3:20), and multiplication, in other words, “great things” (Psalm 126:1–2). Whereas Israel, as a nation, has experienced the fulfillment of some of these promises, to some degree, some of them will not be fully realized until the Messiah comes. For many immigrants today, these promises are far from reality. The Jewish Agency in their former countries promises prospective families a “better life,” but it doesn’t always begin that way. Sometimes it takes years to see the benefit of having left their homes for Israel.

Even with all the help Israel gives new immigrants, which lasts only a year, it is very difficult to make a living while learning Hebrew. Mothers with children can’t attend Hebrew class because there’s no child care provided. Without Hebrew, a decent paying job is impossible. This is why the help Bridges for Peace provides through our Adoption Program makes such a difference. Valentin and Natalia, with their three children (12, 10, 3), are a family we have adopted. They immigrated from the Ukraine in 2005. Natalia tells their story:

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, our life was becoming more and more difficult with each year. At first, my husband worked in the fire department, then he was given a lay off and was unemployed for a long time. I worked as a lab assistant at the dairy factory and worked in difficult conditions. Then I went on maternity leave, and we lived in terrible poverty. There were some days and weeks when we stayed without bread, and had not money to buy baby food for our child. We had no apartment of our own and rented an apartment for 10 years, and just a few landlords wanted to let a family with children in their apartments. Life in the Ukraine was very hard for us, and we decided to come to Israel, as we had nothing to lose or leave behind.

Now two years since their aliyah (immigration), Natalia is cleaning houses morning till night, though she is a microbiologist. She decorates cakes to earn a little extra money. She cannot pursue a degree acceptable in Israel because she has to be at home with the children and cannot attend Hebrew classes. Valentin studied some Hebrew and then started a retraining course in car repair, a job he did in the Ukraine, learning all the technical terms in Hebrew. There is no spare time to do the things they once enjoyed doing, and the children miss their granny. The family left behind dogs, a cat, fishes, and a parrot, but there are no family pets now. Although the government provides money to help purchase a house, they see no possibility of ever owning a home here. Starting over is not easy.

Adopting an Immigrant

We presently have 263 families or individuals on our Adoption Program with at least 300 more on a waiting list. Selecting which families to accept is not an easy job. Our goal is not to simply give charity but to help those who have the best chance to succeed, so we have a part in strengthening the State of Israel as a whole. We would like to help at least 300 families, but right now we are in desperate need of more donors. It takes seven to eight donors to provide for one immigrant, but the help we give during the one-year program is lifesaving for some of these families. Depending on the size of the family, they receive weekly, or every other week, a substantial package: three fresh fruits, three fresh vegetables, milk products, chicken, canned goods, paper goods, and staples such as flour, sugar, rice, etc. Monthly we provide an unlimited bus pass for one breadwinner and punch tickets for each school-age child. Our Hebrew- and Russian-speaking staff spend time visiting with them and establishing loving relationships.

At the beginning of the program, each donor is sent a picture and story of their immigrant. Letters between donors and recipients, translated by our staff, are encouraged. Birthday and holiday gifts are often sent. If the donor visits Israel, a time to meet their immigrant/s is set up along with a translator. Often these visits are very emotional, as the families meet for the first time. The Adoption Program is the best way to develop a close relationship with Israel and the people of the Land from a distance.

Besides families and single parents, we also help university students. In fact, they make up about 50% of our program. Most of these students come to Israel on study programs without their families. Their school fees are provided by the state, but they have to work to cover living expenses. Most times, language study is necessary before they can begin their studies. When we help students, we enable them to work less and study more. Only the brightest are accepted in degree programs, so again we help Israel integrate the cream of the crop of the younger generation into Israeli society.

Alexandra started studying psychology in the Ukraine, but after being introduced to Jewish life through the Jewish Agency, she decided to make aliyah and dropped out of school, as she saw no future for herself in the Ukraine. At the absorption center in Karmiel, she learned Hebrew, English, and math. After becoming fluent in Hebrew, she moved to Jerusalem and began her studies at Hebrew University. She works part-time at a bakery. Though she learned to speak Hebrew, taking all her courses in Hebrew is still very hard for her, so working while studying isn’t easy. We’re glad we can help. We normally adopt immigrants for just a year, but we often adopt students for up to three years.

Welcoming Our Immigrants

Our immigrant families and students originally come through our Welcome Program where, within their first year, they come by and receive a one-time welcome gift package: a 3-volume Hebrew/Russian Tanach (Hebrew Scriptures, Gen.–Mal.), blankets, school kits for children, and a kitchen set (stainless steel pot, skillet, cutting board, can opener, and utensils). Presently donations are down for blankets and kitchen sets. From the simple, short form they fill out, we select candidates for adoption. They are later interviewed to determine their level of need.

We know that the promises of God are sure and true. One day, all that God has promised for His returning people will come to pass in fullness. There will be peace in the Land. They will prosper and experience great joy. God will heal and restore their fortunes. But until then, many lives are hanging in the balance. Will they make it? Will they be able to establish strong roots in the Land? Sadly, many thousands don’t and end up going back where they came from. Won’t you help us in these small, but very effective, ways to help establish the nation of Israel? It was always God’s plan that Gentiles would help the Jewish people (Isaiah 61:5). Won’t you be one of them?

Blessings from Jerusalem,

Rebecca J. Brimmer
International President and CEO