The first Birthright Israel group from Ukraine since the start of the war reached Israel on Monday night. A group of twenty-four young Ukrainian Jews joined the organization’s 10-day educational experience in the Jewish state for young Diaspora residents. They arrived on a special flight arranged by philanthropist Dr. Miriam Adelson, who accompanied them on her private jet.
Fifteen of the participants had reached Warsaw, from where the Israel-bound flight departed, from Kyiv, Odesa, Kharkiv and Dnipro, all cities that have come under Russian attack. The nine other participants had already left Ukraine during the war and currently live in Germany and Poland. This is the first time that most of the 15 participants have left their country since the war broke out 11 months ago.
Adelson, Birthright Israel’s largest donor, heard about this special Birthright group and decided to fly on her private jet from Austin, Texas, to Poland and escort them to Israel. She left Austin on Saturday night, where she participated in the Israeli American Council (IAC) annual conference.
Disconnecting from the war
According to a Birthright press release, "the participants will be able to disconnect from the war for a short time thanks to their Birthright tour throughout Israel, from the Golan Heights to the Negev. Some will remain in Israel for a few weeks to participate in Birthright’s follow-up program, Onward Israel."
Gidi Mark, CEO of Birthright Israel, who joined Adelson on the flight, said after landing that "every Birthright group in Israel is exciting, but this group is extra-special. I met the participants when they landed and realized how much strength and optimism each of them has.” Mark added that he knows "their Birthright Israel experience will strengthen each of them and give them the power to persevere during the terrible situation Ukraine is going through.”
Birthright Israel Foundation’s president & CEO, Izzy Tapoohi added that the foundation is "grateful to Lynne and Howard Halpern and Andrea and Mike Leven of Boca Raton who support this group, and an additional group planned to arrive in March from Ukraine.”