Robert Stearns in The Jerusalem Post: History Repeats Itself in Israel
In the early 1990’s, after the fall of the Soviet Union, Russian and Ukrainian Jews flooded into Israel, with their home region in financial crisis and their future as the Eastern European Jewish community gravely uncertain.
Now it is happening again – as thousands of Ukrainian Jews have fled the horrors of war to begin a new life in Israel.
The Ukrainian families have suffered unimaginable hardship at the hands of the Russian invasion. For its part, Israel has willingly opened its doors to a mass influx of these refugees, leaning heavily on its humanitarian organizations to help absorb the new population of immigrants who arrived with virtually nothing in their possession.
How does a nation with its own fair share of political and social challenges (not to mention constant existential threats against its existing population) unite around such a massive undertaking, and so rapidly?
Since the rebirth of the State of Israel, its land has become a physical and spiritual refuge for the Jews from the far reaches of the Diaspora, an unparalleled mass pilgrimage.
As a Christian who has spent much of my adult life in Israel and among the Jewish people, if I am honest my own faith tradition has no equivalent of such an interdependent community, of a people united by an inherent oneness despite the barriers of language and cultural differences.
But history nevertheless is repeating itself in Israel – with the Jews doing what Jews have always done: live as a people.
In my view, the biggest story in the news headlines today is not what Putin’s Russian aggression has done – as horrific as it has been and rightly condemned throughout the international community. For me, the more compelling narrative is what the people of Israel have done in opening their borders, yet again, to those from war-torn foreign lands.
From the refuseniks, to the Ethiopians, to the Czechs and Poles and the Westerners from the Americas… all have found a new life in Israel. In just 74 years, nearly 3 and a half million of them. For a nation with a total population of less than 10 million, that is truly a remarkable number.
As long as the world has a strong Israel, the “wandering Jew” will have a place to call home. And that’s something the rest of the international community can gain inspiration from – and is just one of the many reasons that our appreciation for and solidarity with Israel must grow alongside every history-making example that its people provides.
Bishop Robert Stearns is the founder and executive director of Eagles’ Wings, a global movement of churches, ministries, and leaders.