Thirty-three years ago, Yuli Edelstein, who is today Speaker of the Knesset (Likud), was arrested in the Soviet Union for secretly teaching Hebrew. A prisoner of Zion, a hero, he served a three-year sentence in a labor camp.
On Wednesday, Edelstein delivered a speech to the Russian Federation Council, the upper house of the Russian Parliament in Moscow, having been invited by Federation Council Chairwoman Valentina Matviyenko.
The first Israeli to address the Russian Parliament, Edelstein began speaking in Hebrew before switching to Russian:
“I was imprisoned because I worked to disseminate the language in which Abraham, the founder of the Jewish religion, was told ‘Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.’
“Today, I stand before you as the Speaker of Knesset Yisrael, and, in the same language which I was imprisoned for teaching, I bless you with the ancient Jewish blessing: ‘Shalom Aleichem’! Even in my finest dreams, I never believed I`d reach this moment.”
Yuli is truly one of the good guys, and I’m glad for him, that he has been so honored. In this regard, his visit is deeply touching. But the invitation he received transcends his personal story.
It’s important to consider how much things have changed in the last 30 years. This is a source of hope. We are heading in the right direction; and in some cases, as in this one, the world is moving along as well. (Which is not to say all is “sweetness and light,” because that, of course, is not the case.)
But read the story of Edelstein’s visit on Wednesday to the prison where he had been incarcerated prior to his show trial. Back then, he recalled, a prison guard smashed his tfillin. Now the prison has a synagogue.
“We believe your visit will strengthen the ties between the countries and between our parliaments,”
Matviyenko told Edelstein.
This is no small matter, especially when you consider the volatility of Syria, at our border, and the influence of Russia in the region.
There is a great deal more to write about, but I am going to stop here.
I have been working rather intensely on a very special project for the Legal Grounds Campaign, which I co-chair. It is impossible to do it all, although sometimes I do try.
You will hear about that special project soon.
For now, I urge you, if you have never visited the Legal Grounds Campaign website, please do so:
While you are there, please, join our campaign (no fee).
And so I share this news about Yuli Edelstein, and will follow with a more extensive posting after Shabbat.
(C) Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by independent journalist Arlene Kushner. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.