Journal of a special trip by Rabbi Benjamin Jacobs Chief Rabbi of Holland, to the Ukraine.
After a night’s sleep in Chernigov, a lecture, morning service and breakfast with the rabbi, his wife and some members of the Jewish community, we visit the Jewish school and then get a tour through Jewish Chernigov to see where the synagogues once stood and where the Jews lived.
On the way we visit Sophia. Sophia is only thirteen years old, but unfortunately almost mature she does not know who and where her father is. She lives with her mother in a tiny room. Her mother is in the army. She says that she doesn’t know what her mother is doing there, that is secret. Sophia cooks and washes, actually has had no childhood. The rabbi has taken her under his wing. I hope he can still save her.
The young, enthusiastic rabbi and the chairman of the Jewish Congregation take us to a seemingly peaceful forest. It seems peaceful, however the remains of those who were slaughtered barbarically lie here. Often they were still alive when their lives came to an end in the deep trench, originally intended to stop the German tanks: it became another mass grave.
The chairman shows us a picture of German soldiers who look at the bodies of murdered Jews with satisfaction. The voluntary Ukrainian police had already done the preliminary work thoroughly …
The government of Ukraine is certainly not against Jews, the chairman explains. But antisemitism has been deeply rooted in the country for centuries.
At the Jewish cemetery, where he takes us, he emotionally and indignantly shows us how the Greek Orthodox Church just recently built its prayer room on a part of the Jewish cemetery on the remains of the horrible murder of the Jewish community, with full cooperation of the local authorities, but clearly without the consent of the Jewish community.
We say goodbye to Alina, our interpreter. We will drive to Kiev now. When we fill our thermos bottle in the synagogue, Rabbi Israel Silverstein says he still wants to show us something. He recently received two Torah scrolls. Originally from Chernigov, and via Siberia and many other hiding places they are now finally back, but without its owner.
We will have dinner tonight at the house of a rabbi, who has fled from Donetsk. He now lives in Kiev with other Jewish refugees. This time, fleeing, had nothing to do with antisemitism, but with the war between Russia and Ukraine.
We have now spent the night in Kiev’s kosher hotel and are packing our suitcases for the journey back home. I asked Koen* if he can drop of us at home in the Netherlands. After all, the slogan of Christians for Israel is: “Bring the Jews home’!
Kiev, a city with millions of inhabitants, very modern. I feel as if I have ended up in the civilized world without poverty and corruption. I do not know if that feeling is right. I have my doubts, but that’s how it feels.
A meeting with the Ambassador of Israel to Ukraine is scheduled for this morning. We just managed to arrange it through the Israeli ambassador in the Netherlands, Aviv Shir-On. I would like Koen* to meet the new Israeli Ambassador, and I also want the Ambassador to be informed about the work of Koen* and his colleagues. Then we drive directly to the airport, back to the Netherlands. Did we have a good time? Yes and no. Great to see the work of Koen* and his team, but the situation is distressing.
It struck me, by the way, that there are many pharmacies in this country, much more than in the Netherlands. Apparently there is still a lot of sickness in Ukraine …
* Koen Carlier is an Aliyah field worker for Christians for Israel, who lives and works with his wife and three children in the Ukraine.
Message from Jews Down Under.
Please support the food parcel programme if you are able.
Christians for Israel hope to distribute thousands of food parcels to the Jewish communities in Ukraine this coming winter. They need your support!
One food parcel costs € 10 or US $ 12. Please help?