On Wednesday, activists from the Makom organization departed on a flight headed for the Ukrainian border, in order to set up an aid center for refugees fleeing the conflict.
During the flight, the festival of Purim began and those onboard held a Megillah reading, with Yotam Karo, a member of the Torah-core community of Tzfat, reading from a very special scroll.
The scroll in question was written in Germany prior to the outbreak of the Second World War and was saved from the conflagration by Karo's grandfather, who brought it with him when he immigrated to Israel before war broke out.
For Sarit Chanukaiev, on board the flight as a member of a delegation organized by Midor Ledor, this was her first-ever Megillah reading. "Yotam gave me this special mitzvah of hearing the Megillat Esther for the first time," she said with emotion. "Not only that, he read from a very special scroll."
"All the events of Purim occurred because the Jews were dispersed and lacked unity," Karo told Israel National News. "This enabled Haman to approach the King, Achashveirosh, and claim that no one cared about the Jews, as they were scattered among the nations. Mordechai then told his niece, Queen Esther, to rescue the Jews, and she responded that she would only be able to do so if all the Jews gathered together. And so, instead of running away to hide from those who sought to kill them, the Jews gathered together -- and it was this show of unity and fearless expression of their Jewish identity that ultimately saved them."
"Yotam's Megillah," continued Chanukaiev, "is an ancient Megillah from Germany that was handed down from generation to generation until his grandfather took it with him to Israel before the war. It is the only thing he has left to remind him of the family -- the whole world -- that he lost. We read from this Megillah while on our way from Israel to Romania, while we were traveling to come to the aid of our Jewish brothers and sisters, now refugees."
This was not the first delegation from Makom to head to Ukraine; just a few days after the outbreak of hostilities, an independent aid delegation from Makom set off for the Ukrainian border with Romania in order to see where help was needed. Upon their arrival, they set up a tent together with a Romanian relief organization, and prepared and distributed food to the masses of people reaching the border. Later, they headed to the border with Moldova where they set up a similar relief center to cater to the refugees arriving there.