Ukrainian Jewish Orphans Land in Israel Following Rescue Operation
Some 90 Jewish orphans who escaped the war in Ukraine last week arrived in Israel on Sunday to a welcome by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.
Originally from the Ukrainian city of Zhytomyr, the children faced serious logistical problems leaving the country due to a lack of travel documents, and ultimately had to walk some distances on foot in below freezing temperatures. They were stranded at the border with Romania for six days before being successfully extracted last Tuesday. The rescue operation was organized by the Israeli government, Chabad, the Jewish Agency, and others.
The children were met by Bennett and other Israeli officials after landing at Ben-Gurion Airport.
“I was very excited to greet them and told them: you are safe now,” Bennett wrote on Twitter. “I saw the hardships they endured in their eyes.”
“The life they knew changed in an instant,” the prime minister continued. “It has already been a week and a half of fleeing battles and shelling, without parents, but with the wonderful Chabad emissaries who accompanied them here.”
“My thanks to the Chabad emissaries and all those involved in the holy work of saving lives,” he added.
Israel’s consul in Romania who spearheaded the operation, Roni Shabtai, said last week that when he met the children at the border, “I asked the security guards to move aside, I went between two buses, and I burst into tears. I’m 57 years old and worked for 30 years in service of the state. I’ve had emotional moments in my career, but never anything like this.”
Shabtai said the operation is emotional for “every Jew” and brings up “feelings that come from deep inside, from other eras and other places.”
Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid hailed the operation last Tuesday, saying, “There is no country like this in the world. Six days into the harsh war in Ukraine, and there are moments for which words are not enough.”