Paul Calvert, a Christian journalist based in the Middle East, interviewed Chad Holland, senior pastor of King of Kings Ministries in Jerusalem, to discuss what the current Ukrainian refugee crisis looks like in Israel and how his organization is making a difference.
Holland said when he first heard that Russia invaded Ukraine, he was immediately concerned about the Jewish people of both nations.
“As the body of Messiah, we want to see people safe. We want to see them healthy. And any time we see war…we’re praying that peace will come,” Holland said.
But King of Kings also wanted to play a role in helping both Ukrainian and Russian refugees who needed to flee their homeland by the tens of thousands. Some of those displaced are either on their way to Israel or have already arrived.
“We’re working as directly as possible with social services here in Israel, with the Ukrainian embassy at the same time, and with a few of our representatives in the military,” said Holland.
“Out of 44 million people that lived in Ukraine before the conflict, almost 3 million have now become refugees leaving the country now,” he explained. “We also were told that 200,000 Ukrainians are Jewish by lineage and have the right to make aliyah, that is, to move to Israel and become a citizen. So, we don’t know how many will apply but what we were told is the first 10,000 are being processed now and we’ve already seen some of those families start to arrive.”
Holland said that the first wave of Ukrainian immigrants will be arriving over the next two months and that they are expecting 10,000 refugees to be processed through Israel’s Ministry of Interior.
“It will overwhelm the system for a while until we catch up,” he admitted, “but on our end, we’re looking at how can we help people both when they arrive here in Israel, and then how can we help people that are suffering still in Ukraine?”
In addition, Holland said he was contacted last week by several Jewish believer friends in Russia who are concerned about their government and their own safety and are also beginning to leave the federation.
Holland said he is very moved by the efforts of the body of Messiah, including his own organization, to mobilize and help those in need of emergency assistance.
He said the arriving families are being placed into host homes or temporary hotels while they’re being processed.
“We’ve been able to help primarily through our distribution centers,” Holland explained. “People have arrived with nothing and they’re coming to a country where maybe they don’t even speak Hebrew.”
“When they arrive, they need clothes. They need blankets and jackets and shoes…food. They need personal hygiene items, toys for the kids. And so, we’re providing these [humanitarian aid] packages for the families that arrive.”
People have arrived with nothing and they’re coming to a country where maybe they don’t even speak Hebrew.
“It’s only made possible because of the generosity of King of Kings locally and the King of Kings members around the world. I’m proud of the King of Kings Network for how we’ve contributed as part of the wider body. But yes, I think we’ve been mobilized, we’ve been active. We’ve been as alert as we have been in quite a while,” Holland said.
Modern Israel, at just 73 years old, hosts a large immigrant population, with Jewish people coming from all over the diaspora. What’s different here, Holland explained, is that these immigrants are arriving urgently because of a military conflict.
“This is a little bit of a new twist for us. They’re coming with such an emergency, literally with one bag in their hand. How do we help them at that point? It’s a little bit new from that angle, but not new to the country because the country is primarily made up of immigrants.”
Holland sees a great opportunity for the body of Messiah to be a blessing in practical ways, according to kingdom principles.
“One of the things we learn from the scriptures is to help people in the physical aspect of life as we present the love of Yeshua, the love of God with them, and for us as a body of Messiah here in Israel, this gives us a great chance to grow and learn – learn how to serve people, learn how to feed people, keep them warm, get them into a safe shelter.”
“What are we here on earth to do as a saved remnant of people? We’re here to show the love of God in a practical way and to hand out the invitation of salvation to their God and their creator. If we look at the life of Yeshua in the text of the Bible, we’re going to see that He feeds people, He counsels people, He heals people. He’s patient while they don’t understand, but He’s also a good teacher and a preacher of the gospel. And if we’re going to be made in His image and do His ministry, we are the hands and the feet.”
When believers demonstrate God’s love in practical ways, Holland added, there is a door open to share the message of salvation where a genuine trust and friendship is already established.
“This is really good for the body of Messiah,” he added enthusiastically. “It’s activated us, it’s ignited us, it’s unified us.”
But Holland does not think this is just a temporary project.
“I don’t think it’s going to be the end. I think this is really just the beginning of a long season in a major wave of aliyah. We’re talking about Ukraine today. We’re talking about Russia. But we understand that, soon, many from South America will start to come. And as anti-Semitism grows in the world again, I think we’re going to see major waves of immigration and we want to be ready for that.”
Holland said that Europeans are increasingly concerned with the rise of Islamic communities and Sharia law.
“We’ve had immigrants come from all over Europe these last few years, and their concern hasn’t been war. Their concern has been the rise of Islam and Islam going unchecked in their countries. And they don’t really like the dynamic that’s happening. They don’t feel safe…So you have, again, the rise of anti-Semitism. You have a concern with Islam growing in Europe. You have wars, countries on the borders.”
Holland also believes that the Ukrainians arriving in Israel will need counseling and Israel is well-suited for the job.
“We deal quite often with the military campaigns, with being attacked and missiles fired and incendiary balloons released over us in tunnels dug on our borders. And these are terrorist acts. And we deal with them a lot. We have a great military.”
“But inside of Israel, military service is mandatory, both male and female,” he continued. It’s very rare that our young adults have gone through their two and a half years of service – and then reserve service – without being in some kind of military conflict. And that comes with it, the need for trauma counseling, PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) counseling.”
King of Kings has three different counseling center locations and has been offering services to incoming refugees. While Holland knows the ministry is not able to serve every person, he hopes they are able to make an impact, whether it be with a package of humanitarian aid, a hot kosher meal or personal counseling. Ultimately, he hopes that believers will reflect the love of Yeshua and remind them that God loves them and has not forgotten them.
Holland believes that God is using the Ukraine refugee situation to fulfill the biblical prophecy to bring Jews back to their homeland.
“Throughout history, we see an ebb and flow of what happens with Jewish people around the world when they are too comfortable in a foreign land. When they’re too comfortable in the diaspora, typically some kind of pressure will be applied or will be allowed, even if it’s not caused by God. And that pressure will remind the Jewish people of their one true covenant home, the land of Israel that was promised to them and their forefather, Abraham, the tribes of Israel.
“On the one hand, we don’t want war, we don’t want conflict, we don’t want death and violence. On the other hand, we see how God moves in strategic ways, even in these tragic moments, because those pressures applied, whether it be Islam or whether it be terrorism or whether it be anti-Semitism or war. Those pressures are applied historically, and it causes a major wave of immigration back to Israel.”
While Holland makes no claim to be a political expert, he says the Russia-Ukraine conflict cannot be compared to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and that Israel is not, in any way, an apartheid state.
“Israel is not attacking Gaza or the Golan. We’re not attacking. We’re not the instigators of conflict. So, I think that’s very different from, you know, Russia attacking Ukraine.”
He said that Palestinians are occupying Israeli territory, not the other way around because Israel is the rightful and legal owner of the ‘occupied territories.’
“We are not trying to occupy theirs. It’s ours. We’re allowing them to occupy it. On the other hand, we are allowing them to govern themselves as long as that government can keep safety and health in those regions. What some of your listeners may not understand is how many Arab-speaking Arabic people live peacefully inside the Israeli borders. We have Arabic schools. We also have Arabic seats in our Knesset, in our Cabinet, in our government.”
“Israelis and Jews don’t have a problem with living peacefully with Arabs,” Holland continued. “It’s not really a conflict between Jews and Arabs. It’s a conflict between Israel and terrorist groups that have really dominated those regions.
Holland said that the King of Kings Network is praying for Ukrainian refugees and their journey to safety, whether it be Israel or elsewhere. He urged others to pray for their “safe passage, a prayer for their families health along the way and a prayer that they wouldn’t become embittered, that they would see this as a new opportunity, as tragic as it is for how many lives we are losing.”
Most of all, Holland says, he prays that God would use the current crisis to bring the Jewish people from Ukraine, from Russia, from Belarus or the surrounding territories and that they would “come home” and feel welcomed when they arrive.
He believes that doors are opening for Israel’s destiny to be fulfilled – one in which the Gospel is shared and leads to a great harvest at the end of the age.
“I do see very clearly how the prophetic acceleration, how the end of the age, the Book of Revelation is all starting to unfold right in front of our eyes.”
While it’s an honor to be part of what God is doing in these times, it also means we need to be prepared for a rough ride ahead, Holland said.
“But as darkness grows, the light of Messiah grows even brighter.”