The group had to get special permission to drive after the October 7 attacks
Based on an article by Christine Rousselle | Fox News
A group of Ukrainian orphans who arrived in Israel last year after the crisis in Ukraine were safely evacuated from their home in southern Israel less than 24 hours after Hamas began its attacks on October 7.
The children all lived at the Federation of the Jewish Communities (FJC) of the CIS “Alumim” Children’s Home and Orphanage in Zhytomyr, Ukraine.
It was evident in the early days of the Ukraine crisis, that the children would have to leave Zhytomyr, said the group. Several organizations, including the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ), worked together to arrange for the safe transportation of the 60 children to safety in Israel. The IFCJ partners with FJC.
In September 2022, the children moved to what they thought would be their permanent home in the city of Ashkelon, in southern Israel.
That changed on October 7, the day of the Jewish holiday of Simchat Torah.
“We woke up to the sound of a siren, then another and another,” according to a press release from IFCJ.
Within minutes, said the release, those in the orphanage realized that “this time something serious was happening, and that the Hamas had cooked us up an unconventional holiday.”
The staff and children of the orphanage ran to a shelter, where they stayed for about six hours.
“Then the stories of what was really happening around us started to arrive, about terrorists infiltrating and people wounded or killed,” said the release.
“At some point, we received an alert about the infiltration of terrorists close to us, and we were told to stay in our homes. Shocked and terrified, we locked ourselves into the house, staying close to the shelter, and prayed for this frightening situation to end quickly,” they said.
After Shabbat ended, it was clear that staying in Ashkelon would not be an option.
“We realized that the children were very alarmed from the whole day, and [that there was] danger [in] staying in the big city, with continuous sirens and hearing about more and more injuries”.
“We decided that we had to leave the city, despite the fear of the trauma that a sudden departure could cause, despite the uncertainty about where would we go.”
The group quickly found a place to live at a school in Kfar Chabad, a village in central Israel.
But while they found a place that would take them in, the feat of actually getting there would be another challenge.
“We then received an order from the IDF Home Front Command that there was great danger on the roads, and no one could leave the city or their home, and everyone must stay next to a safe room or shelter”.
On the afternoon of October 8, however, the group was given permission to evacuate Ashkelon, Fox News Digital is told.
For some, there was a sense of déjà vu given their evacuation from Ukraine a year-and-a-half earlier.
“Unfortunately, we are experienced, so we packed some clothes for the kids and were on our way, together with the devoted staff, who continued to help, encourage and care for the children with all their hearts”.
“We left with mixed feelings, worry and fear about the time on the roads” — which, while less than an hour, “felt like forever,” the group said.
“We focused on the knowledge that in a short time we would be in a quieter and calmer place, with the hope that we would hear good news, and the belief that soon we would return home with full security and also be able to move around again in the streets of the city without concern,” said the release.
In the days since their arrival at Kfar Chabad, the children have been working on adjusting to their new normal.
“Even here we hear sirens every so often, but at least we go out during the day with confidence, we can sleep calmly, we are studying, participating in workshops and emotional therapy, we cook, play games and pray for the people who were kidnapped, the wounded, our dear soldiers and all the people of Israel” .
Yael Eckstein, president and CEO of IFCJ, told Fox News Digital that the situation was “both heartbreaking and beautiful all over again.”
“These beautiful children, who we were able to evacuate safely from Ukraine last year after that crisis broke out — praise G-d we were able to once again get them to safety quickly, the morning after the attacks started,” Eckstein said this week.
“As a mother of four myself, I cried as I welcomed them to Israel last year as if they were my own children,” she added.
“So knowing they’re safe once again is a beacon of light and hope amidst all the darkness of the past two weeks.”