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Smiles, Tears of Joy as Ukrainian Refugee Kids In Israel Receive Visit from Teacher


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While the Russian war against Ukraine drags on, there are positive stories especially for those getting away from the front lines. CBN News re-visited a group of orphans brought to Israel by their rabbi about five months ago. 

Life is good for them in Israel despite their homesickness. But they recently received a surprise visit from home.

The children had been told that a group of international teachers would be coming, but they didn’t know that a beloved teacher and friend Elina Tabachenko was among them. As they waited for the group with welcome signs, one by one the children noticed their teacher and ran to hug her. Tears of joy were flowing freely.

“We haven’t seen one another for five months and this is really a very long time. It’s such a joy that we were able to meet again,” said Tabachenko.

“It's a great day because, I didn't see my primary school teacher – I really like her – for a lot of time. I can't control my emotions,” said teenager Timothy Kabakova.

“And she, wasn't only my teacher, like she’s the friend of my mom and, we have good relations with her son. So, like not every Friday, but we stayed in different cafes and restaurants. And we had great evenings,” Timothy told CBN News.

Tabachenko was in Israel as part of a program that introduces international teachers to Israel.

“We're talking about a group of teachers from Ukraine, Latvia and Estonia, together with [a] group [of] teachers from south America and from France. They came here to learn about JNF and about Israel, about Zionism, which went from the north all the way to the south,” said Shlomo Ben Haim, Head of the Education Department of the Keren Kayemet L’Israel-Jewish National Fund, KKL-JNF. 

Ben Haim helped put together the surprise reunion.

“We found out there's among the teachers from Ukraine, a teacher that didn't see her students the last half year, because they [fled] from the war. We decided to host them here,” Ben Haim told CBN News.

And the children weren’t the only ones surprised. It was Tabachenko’s birthday and a friend and fellow teacher had a blessing for her.

“We want to wish you good health. May each day bring you only joy and happiness. May your family, your children only bring you joy. May there be peace in our land, and we again will be able to get together in our cafes and visit each other again. We love you very much,” said Iryna Kabakova, Timothy’s mom.

“Probably one of the biggest gifts for a teacher who is far away from her students is to meet the children, the parents, and the colleagues on my birthday. I was so touched by the way I, and all of us, were received here today. Because the same way we were received, Israel receives everyone who comes to the country,” Tabachenko told a crowd that was gathered for the occasion.

When Russia first attacked Ukraine, Rabbi Shlomo Wilhelm and his wife Esther fled the country with about 150 children, staff and parents.

They were brought to Nes Harim, a place where youth groups and others come to hike and enjoy nature.

Nes Harim means “miracle in the mountains” and this place has certainly been that miracle for the 150 Ukrainians that fled the war back home.

“We are very happy here. It is a very calm, quiet place. Nice people. And thanks to KKL that they help us a lot. It's an amazing place where we feel very, very well. And but now we have to decide what to do in our future,” Kabakova told CBN News.

Gili Maimon is the manager of the Nes Harim field school.

“We are really trying to give them the best feeling possible. We are really taking care of them. We have a connection, we really became a family together but in the end it’s not their home, it’s not their routine, said Gili Maimon, Manager of the Nes Harim Field School of KKL-JNF.

“They are really trying to go forward and to live in the midst of this but yes, they are homesick, something that proves they are missing their real lives,” Maimon told CBN News.

For now, the plan for these refugees is to stay in Israel for a year. But whether or not they stay, their hope and dream is for peace in Ukraine.

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About The Author

Julie Stahl

Julie Stahl is a correspondent for CBN News in the Middle East. A Hebrew speaker, she has been covering news in Israel fulltime for more than 20 years. Julie’s life as a journalist has been intertwined with CBN – first as a graduate student in Journalism; then as a journalist with Middle East Television (METV) when it was owned by CBN from 1989-91; and now with the Middle East Bureau of CBN News in Jerusalem since 2009. As a correspondent for CBN News, Julie has covered Israel’s wars with Gaza, rocket attacks on Israeli communities, stories on the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria and