An Update from the Ukrainian Front
BY ROI ABECASSIS
Moldova, near the Ukrainian Border, March 12
This was truly a Shabbat Zachor – a Shabbat we will never forget!
We returned to the hotel after the Friday night Shabbat meal, knowing that at 8am the next day, a group of forty elderly and handicapped refugees would arrive at the northern Moldova-Ukraine border. It was our mission to bring these people to safety in Moldova, and to do so on Shabbat itself. Pikuach nefesh, saving lives, overrides Shabbat.
We left at 4am on Shabbat morning in a bus equipped with a stretcher and a wheelchair. Arriving at the border, we davenned quickly, made Kiddush and ate a hasty Shabbat meal. We left our bus in Moldova, as the only way to cross the border in this area was by foot. Shortly afterwards, the exhausted elderly refugees arrived after a grueling 24-hour journey from the ravaged city of Kharkov. It was painful to see these elderly in such a state; several were disabled and lying on stretchers.
One by one, we helped each refugee cross the border to Moldova, where a Hatzalah medical crew was waiting to receive them. When they boarded the bus, I saw no joy nor relief on their faces. We all sat on the bus in absolute silence, thinking of the challenges ahead of them. I was shaken from my thoughts when the person in charge of the bus asked each of the refugees where they intended to go. One said Germany, another Bucharest. To our delight, more than half of the refugees hoped to move to Israel.
Our mission complete, the spirit of Shabbat returned. As we sang the Shabbat Zemirot, the words came to life as they never have for me before:
פְּרֻק יַת עָנָךְ מִפֻּם אַרְיָוָתָא – save Your flock from the lion’s mouth
וְאַפֵּק יַת עַמָּךְ מִגּוֹ גָּלוּתָא – and take them out of exile
עַמָּא דִי בְחַרְתְּ מִכָּל אֻמַּיָּא – Your nation which You have chosen from all the nations
May we soon see the safe and joyous return of all our people to our Holy Land!
Roi Abecassis is the Head of the World Zionist Organization’s Center for Religious Affairs in the Diaspora and World Mizrachi’s representative in the National Institutions.