Displaying 30+ Stories
Allow Ads

Ukrainian Children, Staff Celebrate Purim in Israel with Mixed Emotions, 1 Year after Evacuation

Ukrainian and Israeli children celebrate Purim at Nes Harim near Jerusalem, Photo Credit: CBN News.
Ukrainian and Israeli children celebrate Purim at Nes Harim near Jerusalem, Photo Credit: CBN News.

JERUSALEM, Israel – When war erupted in Ukraine, a rabbi took quick action to evacuate 150 orphans, staff and others to Israel.  CBN News welcomed them then and returned for a celebration this week.

The Ukrainian children celebrated Purim with Israeli children at the Nes Harim Field School of the KKL-Jewish National Fund outside Jerusalem.  The holiday marks the Jews’ deliverance from an evil plot to destroy them as told in the book of Esther. 

A year ago, Nes Harim was the first home for 150 Jewish orphans and others as they fled the war in Ukraine. They came back from elsewhere in Israel now to visit Nes Harim and celebrate Purim here once again. 

“The truth is it’s very fun to see them, it’s very exciting. They all grew and matured and speak Hebrew much better,” said Nes Harim Manager Gili Maimon.

As manager of the field school, Maimon became hero and friend to the children.

“They are very excited to be here today. This was their first home after they came from Ukraine and to return here after such a long time is exciting,” Maimon told CBN News.

Back in Ukraine, Rabbi Shlomo Wilhelm and his wife Esther have led the Jewish community of Zhytomyr for the last 28 years.

“In a way, it's like coming full circle because we lived in this place for half a year. Now we've come back for the Purim fair. So it's an interesting experience with a lot of mixed feelings,” Esther told CBN News.

CBN News first met this group shortly after their arrival in Israel. We’ve kept up with their lives, such as the time their teacher from Ukraine made a surprise visit, and six months ago, as they said goodbye to Nes Harim and moved to the Israeli coastal city of Ashkelon.

“We're happy that we we're settled now, more or less in Ashkelon. So, the kids are settled, they're in school. It's more of a normal life than what we had here. We're still very much grateful to the people here for having received us and accepted us for the first half a year when we came to Israel,” Esther said.

While they try to keep a positive attitude, the last year has been difficult.

“Leaving their homes, leaving their families, leaving everything that was familiar and coming to a new place,” Esther explained.

After a year, many of the children are still learning the language and adjusting to Israeli culture. 

“And so that takes a toll in many ways, educationally, scholastically. Just the fact that they're in a school where they don't know the language and they're still getting used it. And, psychologically and in many ways, there are many things that still need to be worked through,” she said.

The same goes for the community back in Ukraine, so Rabbi Wilhelm often travels back there to support them.

Esther said the people in their community in Zhytomyr are trying to continue life as normal as possible – going to work and school. 

“But still, you feel the instability. You feel the insecurity. You feel the fear for the future where nobody really knows what's going to be,” she added.

Esther says this last year has taught them about both the unpredictability of life and importance of faith.

“First of all, we're not in charge that there's a God who is in charge. We can’t predict the future. Our job as human beings living in this world, and especially as Jews, is for us to make the best decisions that we can make in the situation in which we find ourselves.”

Did you know?

God is everywhere—even in the news. That’s why we view every news story through the lens of faith. We are committed to delivering quality independent Christian journalism you can trust. But it takes a lot of hard work, time, and money to do what we do. Help us continue to be a voice for truth in the media by supporting CBN News for as little as $1.