As the School Year Begins in Ukraine, Memories of a Summer in Israel Linger

Sep. 14, 2014

Source: eJewish Philanthropy


This past summer, 40 young Jews from war-torn Ukraine found necessary, if not ironic, respite in a quiet kibbutz in southern Israel – despite the conflict raging on the Gaza border. Flown to Israel for relief from Ukraine’s most dangerous regions, including Donetsk, these students were participants of ZMAN.IL, a special Jewish Agency for Israel project funded by the Jewish Federations of North America and UJA Federation of Greater Toronto.


For most of the youngsters, this was their first introduction to Israel – for weeks, they toured the country, studied Hebrew, delved into Israeli culture, and learned about Jewish history, accompanied by Russian-speaking Israeli staff. The program included a joint activity in a Jerusalem forest with, a camp funded by UJA-Federation of NY for 100 Russian-speaking participants from Israel and the former Soviet Union, including ten campers from Kiev. Set in the scenic Kibbutz Kalia with breathtaking views of the Dead Sea, the ZMAN.IL summer camp experience emphasizes Jewish identity with a strong, modern Israel at its center.


The Zman.IL program was one of many summer camps organized by The Jewish Agency for children of Ukraine in 2014; another 400 children participated in Jewish Agency camps closer to home, throughout Odessa, Kiev and Primorsk (for children from Dnepropetrovsk and Kharkov).


The growing interest in Israel and Jewish identity among Ukrainian Jews is significant, with Ukrainian Aliyah at a marked high this year. The Jewish Agency’s Russian-Speaking Jewry unit reports that immigration to Israel from Ukraine has more than tripled since the beginning of 2014, with over 2,000 olim coming to Israel since January of this year, compared to 600 during the equivalent period in 2013. The highest percentage of olim arriving are from southeastern regions of Ukraine, where fighting is heaviest, and some 400 individuals have been rescued from the strife-torn areas and brought to Israel. Interest in emigration continues to grow across the country, with over 1,000 Aliyah consultations in Jewish Agency offices in Dnepropetrovsk in July 2014 alone and 24 Hebrew immersion courses offered; this month, another 80 young adults are making Aliyah alone through Jewish Agency programs.


Read the entire article on eJewish Philanthropy.

Updated: Sep. 23, 2014