Today Novosibirsk, in southern Siberian Russia, is the main base for helping Jewish people to make aliyah from the whole of Siberia. The base leadership oversees the work of regional representatives and their helpers. The Novosibirsk base was established in 1997 when Troels and Birgit Truelsen moved from Khabarovsk.
Novosibirsk is the youngest and largest city in the whole of Siberia. From being a village on the Ob river crossing of the Trans–Siberian Railway in 1893, it has grown an urban centre of nearly 1.5 million people. It mushroomed in the 1920s as an industrial and transport centre and expanded even more during the Second World War when factories and plants were evacuated to it from European Russia to save them from Hitler’s invading forces.
Ebenezer’s arrival in Novosibirsk quickly made an impact on the number of Jewish people leaving the region for Israel. Fishing teams spread the ‘net’ far and wide. ‘Our sincerest gratitude and appreciation for your effective and valuable assistance. Your efforts in locating Jews in the vast and remote areas are of great worth to us,’ the Jewish Agency in Novosibirsk wrote to Ebenezer.
The area Novosibirsk base has the oversight of covers a territory ten times the size of Europe. There are regional representatives in strategic centres. The work, says current base leader Yuri, is primarily aimed at ‘finding every Jewish person and bringing them the message of God’s call for them to return home’. He and his co–workers travel great distances, enduring bad roads that are often little more than tracks, hampered by rain turning them to mud in summer and heavy snowfalls blocking the way to remote villages and settlements in winter. But the reward for their perseverance is ‘great blessing to meet and serve those who are prayed for by thousands of intercessors in Russia and all over the world, as well as being assisted financially by numerous supporters.
‘We are privileged’, says Yuri, ‘to be able to see the fruit of all this work as we not only find Jewish people but help them with their documents and see them off to Israel. We are the last in the land of their exile to bid them farewell and wish them a blessed journey home’.
Teaching the Church about helping with aliyah has become an increasingly important part of the work. By sharing their rich experiences of this ministry, along with teaching from the Scriptures, Yuri sees Christians being equipped and prepared to take up the responsibility for Jewish people going home from Russia in the days ahead.
Westwards, between Novosibirsk and Moscow, is Yekaterinburg, infamous as the place where the Bolsheviks murdered Tsar Nicholas II and his family in 1918. As Sverdlovsk (it became Yekaterinburg again in 1991), it is also known as the place where former Russian President Boris Yeltsin began his rise as a politician. The ancient city is the capital of the mineral–rich Ural Mountains region. Since Ebenezer established a base there in 1999 staff, volunteers, helpers and regional representatives have worked intensively in the city and far beyond in Sverdlovsk oblast – seeking Jewish people in the city and far beyond, meeting olim at railway stations and helping them with their baggage to the airport, buying and distributing food parcels and establishing relationships with Jewish organisations and churches in many of the region’s cities and towns. Often it meant long journeys on rough roads, severe in harsh winter conditions.
The hard work has borne fruit. Today friendly and trustful relationships with members of local Jewish communities are proving very helpful in helping people make aliyah. Many of the repatriates are amazed we are Christians because of our willingness to help them in every way possible and tell us we are always welcome in their homes in Israel. It is such a joy that they regard us as friends.
Many of those we come into contact with for the first time have already heard of Ebenezer, especially through helping family members to make aliyah. Often we begin by helping one or two members of a family – either their children to go to Israel on study programmes or elderly parents to repatriate. So as other members prepare to make aliyah they know the kind of assistance we give.
The importance of humanitarian aid, which is distributed among needy Jewish families, cannot be underestimated. It has often been the key to sharing about making aliyah, as well as building up relationships with Jewish organisations. Ebenezer often works closely with local communities in distributing food parcels. This co–operation has proved particularly successful in remote parts of the Urals, Udmurtia republic and Kurgan oblast.
A striking example of the humanitarian aid work is the Winter Shoes for Jewish Children project. This enabled us, over a short period of time, to meet with many families. As a result a number of them requested further meetings with us to hear more about Israel and making aliyah. The project especially touched the hearts of the 5,000–strong Jewish community in Udmurtia, including the head of a Jewish charity. He was particularly moved by the fact that Ebenezer was willing to make a long trip for the sake of one family living in a remote place.
One of the greatest concerns about the work of aliyah in the Yekaterinburg region is the reluctance, generally, of churches to become involved. We need much prayer that this will change.
Intro, The Russian Federation, Siberia > > Novosibirsk, Yekaterinburg > > Moscow, Pyatigorsk > > Rostov–on–Don, Ukraine > > Moldova, Armenia, Georgia > > Central Asia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan > > Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, The work of our bases in the former Soviet Union > >