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A Year of Crisis

Friday, October 21, 2022

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Every week, we post seven to ten news stories from Israel with a suggested prayer focus and scripture for each one, guiding readers how to pray for Israel’s most urgent needs. This Prayer Update is also sent to over 18,000 subscribers every Friday by e-mail. Please contact us at intl.office@bridgesforpeace.com if you would like to receive this Prayer Update by e-mail.

Israel Lambastes Australia for Walking Back Jerusalem Capital Recognition

by Kate Norman

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A panoramic view of Jerusalem, the capital city of Israel

Wednesday, 19 October 2022 | Australia angered Israeli and Jewish leadership yesterday when it backtracked on the previous administration’s recognition of western Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

The Israeli foreign ministry reportedly summoned Australia’s ambassador for a dressing down over the matter.

Canberra “reaffirmed Australia’s previous and longstanding position that Jerusalem is a final status issue that should be resolved as a part of any peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian people,” Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong said in a statement released by her office.

Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid lambasted the decision in a statement released by his office.

“In light of the way in which this decision was made in Australia, as a hasty response to an incorrect report in the media, we can only hope that the Australian government manages other matters more seriously and professionally,” Lapid said. “Jerusalem is the eternal and united capital of Israel, and nothing will ever change that,” the prime minister added.

Former Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison officially recognized western Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in 2018, although the country did not move its embassy there from Tel Aviv. The new administration came in May 2022 under Labor party leader Anthony Albanese, a critic of Israel and supporter of an independent Palestinian state. The party had campaigned on reversing conservative Morrison’s acknowledgement of Jerusalem as the Jewish state’s capital.

“Australia’s embassy has always been, and remains, in Tel Aviv,” Wong asserted in yesterday’s statement.

However, the day before her official statement revoking Australia’s recognition of Israel’s capital, Wong had declared that the new government would not backtrack on its predecessor’s policy.

Nonetheless, hours later, the foreign secretary declared: “I regret that Mr. Morrison’s decision to play politics resulted in Australia’s shifting position, and the distress these shifts have caused to many people in the Australian community who care deeply about this issue.”

The Australian Foreign Affairs department deleted text from its website that had described “western Jerusalem as the capital of Israel” and that the country “looks forward to moving its embassy to western Jerusalem when practical, in support of, and after the final status determination of, a two-state solution,” British newspaper The Guardian reported on Monday.

The text was removed after The Guardian asked the Australian Foreign Affairs department about its stance on the status of Jerusalem, the paper reported.

Moshe Lion, the Jerusalem mayor, issued a statement expressing his disappointment.

“A united Jerusalem has been and will continue to be the capital of Israel forever,” the mayor said. “Statements of this type do not further anything and do not contribute at all.”

Wong, however, declared Australia’s continuing friendship with the Jewish state.

“Australia will always be a steadfast friend of Israel,” she stated. “We were among the first countries to formally recognize Israel under Labor Prime Minister Ben Chifley. This government will not waver in its support of Israel and the Jewish community in Australia.”

The Jewish community in Australia, however, was not pleased by the decision.

The Executive Council of Australian Jewry said the decision was “clearly media driven” and that “the status of Jerusalem is an important foreign policy issue and it is demeaning for Australia to have its international position changed in such a shoddy manner…”

The president of the Zionist Federation of Australia added that the government’s decision to backtrack on its recognition of western Jerusalem as Israel’s capital “is deeply disappointing and counterproductive to achieving the government’s objective of a two-state solution. Every other sovereign country is allowed to determine the location of its capital. Israel should be treated no differently…”

Source: (Bridges for Peace, October 19, 2022)

Photo Credit: Marla66/pixabay.com

Prayer Focus
Pray that the Australian government, for its own sake if nothing else, will change its mind yet again and acknowledge Jerusalem as Israel’s undisputed eternal capital. Cry out to the Lord for more nations to recognize Israel’s capital and move their embassies accordingly.

Scripture

And I will curse him who curses you.


- Genesis 12:3a

Gunman behind Murder of Border Police Cop Killed during another Attempted Attack

by Elisha Ben Kimon ~ Ynetnews

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The city of Ma’ale Adumim, where a gunman opened fire at an Israeli security guard

Thursday, 20 October 2022 | A Palestinian gunman opened fire at an Israeli security guard at the entrance gate to Ma’ale Adumim [a city located east of Jerusalem] Wednesday evening.

Another security guard who was at the scene opened fire at the attacker and killed him. A grenade was also found on the body of the terrorist, who was later identified as Udai Tamimi, the gunman behind the October 8 shooting attack in eastern Jerusalem in which Border Police Sergeant Noa Lazar, 18, was killed.

The wounded Israeli was taken by the Magen David Adom ambulance service to Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem.

Police and IDF [Israel Defense Forces] forces have set up roadblocks and are conducting searches in the area for fear that another assailant or an accomplice has fled the scene.

United Hatzalah volunteer EMT Akiva Skolnick, who was one of the first responders at the scene, relayed, “We were told at the scene that a terrorist opened fire at a security guard who miraculously was only injured in his hand. I treated him at the scene and then he was transported to Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem in light condition and fully conscious. The terrorist was pronounced dead at the scene.”

This latest shooting occurred as Israeli security forces are on high alert after Lazar and Staff Sergeant Ido Baruch were killed in similar attacks.

Meanwhile, the IDF continued its military lockdown on the northern West Bank’s [Judea and Samaria’s] Nablus area as part of its crackdown on the armed Lion’s Den militia, which is responsible for most of the recent terrorist acts in the area.

In May this year, a similar shooting attack at the entrance to the West Bank settlement of Ariel claimed the life of 23-year-old security guard Vyacheslav (Daniel) Golev.

The terrorists, 20-year-old Youssef Sameeh Assi and 19-year-old Yahya Marei, both from the Palestinian town of Qarawat Bani Hassan, were arrested at the end of a 20-hour manhunt.

Source: (Excerpt of an article originally published by Ynetnews on October 19, 2022. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our publication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: B1408/commons.wikimedia.org

Photo License: Wikimedia

Prayer Focus
Praise the Lord that the security guard’s injuries were mild and pray for quick and complete healing. Pray also for the families of Noa Lazar, Daniel Golev and Ido Baruch as they mourn the loss of their loved ones. Cry out to the Lord that Israel’s crackdown on the Lion’s Den militia will be successful, bringing an end to this most recent spate of violent attacks.

Scripture

Consider my enemies, for they are many; and they hate me with cruel hatred. Keep my soul, and deliver me; let me not be ashamed, for I put my trust in You.


- Psalm 25:19–20

Israel Takes Top Spot as World’s Fifth Most Educated Country

by Kate Norman

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The Hebrew University of Jerusalem is one of Israel’s foremost academic institutions.

Thursday, 20 October 2022 | Israel is the fifth most educated country in the world, with more than half of its population having received higher education, according to a report by education search platform Erudera.

Canada came in first as the most educated country, with nearly 60% of its population having a secondary education, followed by Japan, Luxembourg and South Korea. Israel came in fifth with 51.12%, ranking ahead of the United States, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Australia and Finland.

“Each of these countries have a higher share of the population with a higher tertiary [post-secondary] degree than the OECD [Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development] average, which stands at 39%,” the Erudera report said.

The report also noted the commonalities that nations ranked highest for education shared: higher per capita GDP, low unemployment, more money invested in higher education and higher ranks on the overall happiness index.

The list ranked Israel among the countries with the highest per capita GDP (US $43,610.52), following Luxembourg, Ireland, Austria, the US and Finland.

These countries all have low unemployment percentages, Erudera pointed out. Among the countries listed as the most educated, South Korea has the lowest unemployment rate with 2.5%, followed by Japan, Australia, UK, the US and Luxembourg. Israel trails with a 5.05% unemployment rate, followed by Canada, Ireland and Finland.

These countries all also appeared on the OECD’s list of nations who invest the most money per student in higher education. Luxembourg tops the list with US $47,694 per student, followed by the US with $34,036, the UK with US $29,911, Canada with US $24,498, Australia with US $20,647, Japan with US $19,309, Finland with US $18,170 and Ireland with US $17,125. Israel follows with US $12,336 invested per student, followed by South Korea with US $11,290.

And those investments pay off. Countries with educated populations have a higher quality of life. The countries topping the list of the 2022 World Happiness Report are all familiar: Finland at number 1, Luxembourg in sixth place, Israel in ninth, followed by Australia at 12, Ireland at 13, Canada at 15, the US at 16 and the UK at 17.

Source: (Bridges for Peace, October 20, 2022)

Photo Credit: MediaPhoto.Org/commons.wikimedia.org

Photo License: Wikimedia

Prayer Focus
Praise the Lord for His blessings on the nation of Israel and for its high ranking in so many areas, despite the fact that the country and its people are in a constant battle for their very survival. Pray that more and more people will recognize that Israel’s success is the result of the faithfulness of the God of Israel as He keeps ancient promises made to their forefathers.

Scripture

“The LORD will command the blessing on you in your storehouses and in all to which you set your hand, and He will bless you in the land which the LORD your God is giving you.”


- Deuteronomy 28:8

US Rebukes Abbas for Praising Russia, Calls Iran–Moscow Alliance ‘A Profound Threat’

by Joshua Spurlock ~ The Mideast Update

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Russian President Vladimir Putin and PA President Mahmoud Abbas

Wednesday, 19 October 2022 | If the enemy of my enemy is my friend—who is the friend of my enemy? The United States is learning that lesson firsthand as a consequence of befriending the Palestinians, who in turn are allied with Russia, who in turn conduct arms trades with Iran. And so far, the results are “deeply disappointing” to the US.

Those were the words given out by multiple US spokespersons in an unusual public rebuke of Palestinian Authority [PA] President Mahmoud Abbas after the PA leader praised the role of Russia in the Israel–Palestinian conflict. “Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine is a clear violation of international law and it serves as a threat to global peace and security. And President [Vladimir] Putin is a far cry from the type of international partner or international leader needed to constructively address the Israeli–Palestinian conflict,” said US spokesperson Vedant Patel on Monday in comments published by the State Department.

“And so I would reiterate that we are deeply disappointed to hear President Abbas’s remarks to President Putin.”

According to Haaretz, Abbas told Putin during a conference that “Russia stands by justice and international law”, while lamenting that the Palestinians don’t “trust” the US in the Middle East conflict. The Wafa News Agency reported that Abbas “praised Russia’s positions” supporting the Palestinian people in global entities, presumably the United Nations and similar groups.

The US—which has harshly condemned and sanctioned Russia over the war in Ukraine—feels very different about Putin and his country. “Russia does not stand for justice and international law,” said Patel, who went on to say that US President Joe Biden and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken “in contrast, have demonstrated a US commitment for decades to seeking creative solutions and working towards a lasting peace in the region that’s required to advance stability and prosperity throughout the region.”

Unfortunately for the US, disappointing words aren’t the most troubling support a Middle East nation is giving Russia. Iran, a major sponsor of terrorism around the world, is providing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to Russia for use in Ukraine. Patel, in his comments on Monday, said this is “part of Russia’s plan to import hundreds of Iranian UAVs of various types” and that there is evidence that they have been used on military and civilian targets.

“Russia deepening an alliance with Iran is something the whole world should, especially those in the region and across the world, frankly, should be seen as a profound threat and something that any country should pay very close attention to,” said Patel, who warned of sanctions for those doing business with Iran who have links to the Iran–Russia arms trade.

Regarding the Iranian threat, Patel expressed some optimism offset by caution. He pointed out that Iran is an “unreliable” arms dealer and some of their drones sent to Russia “have been experiencing some numerous failures.” However, he also said they are monitoring the situation “closely” and called the sale of drones a “dangerous proliferation of weapons to Russia.”

Israel apparently agrees with that assessment. Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz on Wednesday told European Union Ambassadors in Israel that “we are following Iran’s involvement in the war in Ukraine. We see that Iran provides UAVs and in the near future may also provide additional advanced systems. The Iranians lie methodically about selling this equipment.”

Gantz, whose comments were published by Israel, reminded his listeners those aren’t the only kind of lies being told by Iran. “Of course, Iran also lies about the nuclear program. They continue their activities in terms of enrichment, development, and building protected areas for their nuclear capacities. We must increase international cooperation, build an intelligence coalition and create a credible military threat,” said Gantz.

“At the same time, Israel will continue developing and maintaining its capabilities.”

Source: (This article was originally published by the Mideast Update on October 19, 2022. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our publication today.)

Photo Credit: Kremlin.ru/commons.wikimedia.org

Photo License: Wikimedia

Prayer Focus
Pray that the world will heed the words of US Spokesperson Patel, as he warns of the dangers posed by the growing alliance between Russia and Iran. Cry out to Him that the nations will “increase international cooperation, build an intelligence coalition and create a credible military threat” as called for by Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz.

Scripture

He shall cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler. You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, nor of the arrow that flies by day.


- Psalm 91:4–5

Israel Increases Security amid Escalating Palestinian Violence in Eastern Jerusalem

by JNS

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Israeli police officers on Jaffa Street in Jerusalem during the holiday of Sukkot

Friday, 14 October 2022 | Omer Bar-Lev, Israel’s minister of public security, on Thursday issued an order calling four reserve Border Police companies to increase security in eastern Jerusalem amid ongoing Palestinian rioting.

The minister said that police would facilitate the freedom of movement of the Shuafat refugee camp without harming Israel’s ability to prevent violence.

Israeli police fired live rounds, tear gas and shock grenades at Palestinians throwing stones, firecrackers and firebombs in eastern Jerusalem. It was the most violent disturbance in the Israeli capital in recent months.

Police arrested 23 rioters overnight in the eastern part of the city. The riots continued into the night. Israel Police and Border Police units were deployed to several friction points.

Prime Minister Yair Lapid received a detailed assessment on the deteriorating security situation.

“The security forces are deployed throughout the country to enable the holiday events to be held as usual in Jerusalem and throughout the country,” said Lapid.

“We are determined to allow the events to take place as usual while taking a strong and uncompromising position against terrorism and violent disturbances,” he said.

Source: (This article was originally published by the Jewish News Syndicate on October 13, 2022. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our publication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90/jns.org

Prayer Focus
Pray for Israel’s police and security forces who are fighting an ongoing battle for the safety of the nation. Pray that increased security will bring the rioting to an end in Jerusalem and throughout the nation.

Scripture

“And they will fight against you, but they shall not prevail against you; for I am with you to save you and deliver you,” says the LORD.


- Jeremiah 15:20b

Report: More than 350 Anti-Semitic Incidents Occurred on US College Campuses Last School Year

by JNS

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An anti-Israel “apartheid wall” on display at Columbia University during “Israeli Apartheid Week”

Tuesday, 18 October 2022 | A total of 359 anti-Semitic incidents took place on US college campuses during the 2021–22 academic year, according to a report released by the Anti-Defamation League [ADL] on Wednesday.

The ADL’s Campus Report documented instances of accusations or “genocide” and “ethnic genocide” levied against Israel as well as the “ostracizing of Jewish students from campus organizations because of their assumed support for Israel or Zionism.”

Among the incidents, there were 165 protests/actions, 143 anti-Israel events, 20 BDS [Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions] resolutions and referendums, 11 incidents of vandalism, nine instances of targeted verbal and/or written harassment and one physical assault.

In response to the large number of incidents, the ADL announced that it would be “broadening its educational and programmatic investment on campus, including the launch today of an expanded online resource to support students and combat anti-Semitism on campus.”

According to the ADL, the report exhibits a snapshot of a growing campus radicalism that places opposition to Israel and Zionism as “core elements of collegiate life or as a requirement for full acceptance in the campus community.”

The report provided information about the sources of funding for the student clubs responsible for many of the incidents, including Students for Justice in Palestine [SJP] and Jewish Voice for Peace [JVP]. While most funds come from student activity fees, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund funds JVP and Westchester Peace Action Coalition sponsors SJP.

There were three major themes and events characterizing campus anti-Semitism last year, according to the report: “Demeaning and ostracizing Zionists and Zionism, including expelling and excluding students from campus groups for expressing any affinity with Zionism or Israel; voicing support for anti-Israel terror and violence; and invoking classic anti-Semitic tropes and conspiracies in lectures and social media posts,” the ADL stated.

Source: (This article was originally published by the Jewish News Syndicate on October 13, 2022. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our publication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Facebook/jns.org

Prayer Focus
Ask the Lord to surround Jewish students worldwide with a blanket of His protection, keeping them from harm and arming them with the wisdom and courage to respond effectively to such vile accusations. Pray that the ADL’s educational efforts will be successful, but also cry out to the Lord that leadership of these institutions of higher learning will refuse to allow such prejudice, bigotry and violent anti-Semitism to exist on their campuses.

Scripture

The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.


- Proverbs 18:10

Bridges for Peace CEO Takes Top Spot as Christian Ally for Third Year

by Kate Norman

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Bridges for Peace CEO and International President Rebecca J. Brimmer and her husband, Tom Brimmer

Tuesday, 18 October 2022 | For the third year in a row, Bridges for Peace International President and CEO Rebecca J. Brimmer was honored in a list of the top 50 Christian allies of Israel.

Every year just before the Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles) holiday starts, the Israel Allies Foundation (IAF) publishes its list of “Top 50 Christian Allies.” The list compiles 50 leaders from the Christian world: pastors, politicians, organization leaders, celebrities, news producers and other influential people.

Among the individuals who have been true friends of Israel and a voice for the Jewish state and the Jewish people, Rebecca Brimmer was honored as 18th on the list.

Brimmer and her husband, Tom, have lived in Israel for over 30 years, and she has served in Bridges for Peace, since 1993. She advocates for Israel as a speaker, teacher and writer, traveling around the world to share about the Jewish state and its people.

“Recognizing the invaluable work of our Christian supporters is an important display of our gratitude towards them,” IAF director Josh Reinstein said, as quoted by JNS. “Each and every one of them serves as an example of the far-reaching impact faith-based diplomacy for Israel has, from a local to international level.”

“It is Christians, not countries, that we can count on to always stand with Israel,” Reinstein added.

The list also included former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Pastor John Hagee, former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, former US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, singer and songwriter Pat Boone, celebrity Chuck Norris, journalist and author Chris Mitchell, American actor and producer Stephen Baldwin and several others.

The list is published around Sukkot to honor the holiday’s special meaning for Bible-believing Christians, thousands of whom travel to Israel each year to celebrate the biblical festival. As the prophet Zechariah prophesied, after the Day of the Lord, several nations will join together to attack Jerusalem but will be defeated. Zechariah continues, “and it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles” (Zech. 14:16).

As the fall holiday season wraps up in Israel, Bridges for Peace celebrates Rebecca Brimmer as well as the other Christian allies who support the Jewish state and the Jewish people.

Source: (Bridges for Peace, October 18, 2022)

Photo Credit: Michio Nagata/bridgesforpeace.com

Prayer Focus
Thank the Lord for the friendship and confidence expressed by the Jewish community in recognizing the work of Israel’s Christian supporters, and especially for the recognition of Bridges for Peace and our International President and CEO Rebecca J. Brimmer. Pray for God’s blessing in her life and that of her husband Tom, and pray that Bridges for Peace will go from strength to strength, blessing the Jewish people for generations to come.

Scripture

How lovely are your tents, O Jacob! Your dwellings, O Israel! Blessed is he who blesses you.


- Numbers 24:5, 9b

Family of Fallen IDF Soldier Donates Corneas, Saving Sight of Two People

by JNS

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Israel Defense Forces Staff Sargent Ido Baruch was killed in a Palestinian terrorist attack in Samaria on October 11.

Wednesday, 19 October 2022 | The family of an Israeli soldier who was killed last week in a drive-by shooting in Samaria has donated his corneas to two people, saving their eyesight, Israeli media reported on Monday.

The recipients, both in their 80s, “were moved to tears when they heard about the identity of the donor,” Walla reported.

Baruch was securing a civilian march near Shavei Shomron in northern Samaria when he was shot from a moving vehicle. He was evacuated to Meir Medical Center in Kfar Saba, where he succumbed to his wounds.

He was laid to rest in his home city of Gedera, south of Tel Aviv, last Wednesday.

Source: (This article was originally published by the Jewish News Syndicate on October 18, 2022. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our publication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: IDF Spokesperson's Unit/jns.org

Prayer Focus
Ask the Lord to extend His great mercy and comfort to Ido Baruch’s family for this incredible act of truly selfless kindness. Pray that those who received his corneas will have perfect vision for the rest of their lives and pray that this story will be widely told, extoling a hero of Israel and his remarkable family.

Scripture

“I, even I, am He who comforts you.”


- Isaiah 51:12a

‘When I Needed it Most, You Came to Help Me’

by Ilse Strauss

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Nikolai, Vera and Toma

Thursday, 20 October 2022 | Seventy-one-year-old Vera spent her life helping others. As a shop steward in the largest factory in Mariupol, Ukraine, she made a career of keeping the employees in her care happy and healthy. In the end, it wasn’t all for nothing. “See?” she beamed, gesturing in childlike glee at the team of Bridges for Peace volunteers filling the tiny room, their arms piled high with gifts, “After all these years, now, when I need it most, you came to help me.”

Vera’s husband, 78-year-old Nikolai, nodded in silent agreement from the kitchen. He bustled about, his blue eyes bright as he took measurements, moved appliances this way and that, opened, closed and re-opened the kitchen cupboard and then, finally, simply stood gazing at the disarray in front of him, his hands clasped together in silent satisfaction.

Half an hour before, Nikolai and Vera’s state-sponsored apartment near the port city of Haifa was starkly bare, a sad testament to their status as refugees who fled the carnage in Ukraine with nothing but the clothes on their back. Then a line of Bridges for Peace volunteers filed in, filling the tiny space to overflowing. Our team carried a brand new fridge, washing machine, vacuum cleaner, stovetop and microwave into the kitchen. Cutlery, crockery and kitchen utensils were soon piled high on the newly assembled kitchen table and chairs, while groceries overflowed from carrier bags lined against the wall. In the bedroom, two bedside tables and a sturdy wardrobe now framed a double bed decked with crisp linen, while the living room was transformed into a cozy nest complete with a couch, easy chairs, a coffee table and a television. A laptop with an extra big screen to accommodate eyes that have seen everything stood on the ledge. A potted plant here, a portrait there and a brightly colored throw pillow or two completed the picture.

Thanks to the generous gift of a Bridges for Peace donor in the US, the elderly couple who had lost everything when the Russians invaded finally had a home again—and we were privileged to be the physical hands and feet of blessing as we brought them the things needed to turn a bare apartment into a home.

The tale of Nikolai and Vera’s journey from war-torn Mariupol to a homecoming in Haifa is gut wrenching. Yet Vera speaks freely of what they had been through, the words flowing from her lips like water. Sharing isn’t easy, she assures me, but it’s necessary. People have to know about the unimaginable horror the couple escaped—and of the safe haven, the tender care and the beautiful homecoming they have found as refugees in Israel.

Back in February, a mere week before everything fell apart, Vera recalls taking stock of her life. “I remember thinking that I had everything I could ever want.” Married to the love of her life and best friend Nikolai for more than half a century. Two beautiful children, both now grown with families of their own. Settled among friends and family in beautiful Mariupol—the city of their hearts—in the spacious apartment where they had raised their children and collected a lifetime of memories. Recently retired from a fulfilling career and now looking forward to spending her days spoiling her grandchildren and gardening with Nikolai at their country home. “My life is perfect,” she remembers thinking.

And then Putin invaded Ukraine.

The couple survived weeks of near-constant bombardment, hiding out in a reinforced part of the corridor outside their front door. When the tanks and the warplanes fell silent for a breather from raining down death on civilians, the elderly couple raced from their sixth-floor apartment to the street below to hack frozen limbs off dead trees, kindle a fire on the sidewalk and cook a ration of dried buckwheat they had left in their pantry. They saw a humanitarian catastrophe unfold as people buried the bodies of loved ones in hastily dug graves in backyards and public parks, and witnessed 95% of the buildings in once-beautiful Mariupol destroyed or damaged, turning the city of their heart into something apocalyptic. Then, when a fire sparked by a Russian tank raged through their apartment building and the water to quench the flames had frozen solid in useless pipes, Nikolai and Vera frantically grabbed their documentation, bundled their beloved cat Toma into a blue shopping bag and fled into the night. Two days later, as the Russians occupied the city, the couple and their cat drove out of Mariupol with their son and his family. “My heart broke,” Vera says.

They spent the next weeks heading for the relative safety of western Ukraine, braving 21 Russian checkpoints, frozen, bomb-scarred roads and the gnawing uncertainty of what the future held. As Jews, Israel beckoned as a safe haven, but men under the age of 60 were barred from leaving Ukraine, and how could Vera leave her son behind while she, Nikolai and Toma escaped the war? “He kept telling us, ‘Mom, go to Israel. You can have a life there.’ But I didn’t want to.”

Finally, after weeks of degradation, peril and with no end to the war in sight, the bone-weary couple made the hard decision to come home to Israel. Things happened quickly after that. They made their way to the Hungarian border, where they met with Israeli officials who put the process in motion. Six months after the Russians came, Nikolai and Vera touched down in the Promised Land.

Despite the trauma, loss and heartbreaking goodbye, it was a happy homecoming. “It felt right somehow,” Vera explains. “Like perhaps everything happened for a reason, so that Nikolai and I would come to Israel.”

Still, their situation was dire, their prospects even more so. The elderly couple who thought they would spend their golden years surrounded by the places and people they had known all their life, arrived in Israel as two of the more than 40,000 Jewish Ukrainian refugees seeking safety in the land of their promise. Israel certainly goes above and beyond to help new immigrants, providing a monthly financial stipend and state-sponsored housing. But with 40,000 new immigrants—and more coming—to care for, the budget is tight, the stipend not enough to cover basic monthly expenses and the rooms of the state-sponsored apartments are bare. The simple solution is to work hard, learn Hebrew and embark on a career to raise the means of carving out a new life. But with Nikolai and Vera both in their 70s and well past retirement age, what hope was there to live out the remainder of their years in even relative comfort?

Bridges for Peace heard about the couple’s plight from Yad Le’Olim, a Jewish aid organization that assists new immigrants coming home to Israel. We immediately knew we wanted to help. And the gift from our donor in the US put us in a position to purchase and deliver the things Nikolai and Vera would need to turn their bare apartment into a home.

“What are you happiest about?” I asked Nikolai as he moved the microwave to yet another location, trying to find the perfect spot in the tiny kitchen. His eyes roamed his now overflowing apartment, resting for a moment on the state-of-the-art appliances, then on to the bed where Toma had curled into a purring ball of grey fluff and finally coming full circle to the cozy living room where his wife stood beaming.

“You,” he said finally, his voice gruff. “All of you. Every time we use the things, we will remember. We will always remember.”

We say goodbye to Nikolai and Vera on the sidewalk outside their apartment in the blinding sunlight of late summer in Israel. They lean in close for a hug, the kind you reserve for someone you treasure close to your heart.

I smile into Vera’s eyes while words continue to flow from her lips like water. Now they are words of hope though. “After we settle in, we’ll start learning Hebrew,” chirps the 71-year-old refugee who had seen it all and lost nearly everything. Yes, I thought. Vera spent her life helping others. But it wasn’t all for nothing. When she and Nikolai needed it most, Christians came to help them. What a privilege. What an honor.

Source: (Bridges for Peace, October 20, 2022)

Photo Credit: Michio Nagata/bridgesforpeace.com

Prayer Focus
Pray for Nikolai and Vera as they work to make Israel their home and for the family that they left behind in Ukraine. Ask the Lord to keep their son and his family safe until they are joyfully reunited in Israel. Thank Him that Nikolai and Vera will remember the love of Christians on a daily basis! Pray also for the hundreds who remain in Ukraine where the war still rages and for ongoing generosity on the part of Christians as Bridges for Peace continues our work to bring these war-weary children of Israel home at last…and establish them once they arrive.

Scripture

So the ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with singing, with everlasting joy on their heads. They shall obtain joy and gladness; sorrow and sighing shall flee away.


- Isaiah 51:11

Action
The generous heart of one Christian donor changed the plight of this precious elderly couple. After their loss and devastation, they can now live out their final days in comfort, knowing that Christians treasure them close to their hearts. But there are tens of thousands just like Nikolai and Vera who face a bleak future after losing everything. Those who are elderly have no way to rebuild and no means to provide. Now, when they need it most, we as Christians have the privilege and honor to help them. Your gift to our New Immigrant Fund will help us transform bare apartments into safe havens. Your generous heart can give them a homecoming.