By COLlive reporter
Photos: Levi Nazarov and Israeli Embassy in Russia
Speaker of the Israeli Knesset Yuli Edelstein spent an emotional 3 days in Moscow which marked 30 years since bring released from Siberian labor camps for the crime of teaching Hebrew.
One of the most prominent refuseniks in the Soviet Union, Edelstein returned to the Buryatia Prison in which he was jailed for 3 months ahead of his trial in 1984.
“I don’t think there is soul-searching here,” he told the Times of Israel. “This is one of the problems, because — and this is something that must be said — the ideology of that period is still considered legitimate in this country.”
Edelstein said he didn’t need an apology from Russian officials for the suffering he endured, because ultimatly he felt that he had “won.”
During the visit, Edelstein delivered a historic speech in the Russian parliment. He warned of the dangers of ““Iran, and the situation in Syria, and Assad and Hezbollah.”
He conclude his visit by speaking to rabbis and lay leaders from Jewish communities around Russia, organized by the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia and held at the famed Metropol Hotel in central Moscow.
He later joined an event with 600 Jewish students gathered in honor of Gimmel Tammuz. These young men and women regularly learn Torah as part of the YACHAD youth organization.
Russia’s Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar described those difficult years in the past, when no one dreamed of publicly displaying their Jewish pride in Russia, and Edelstein’s great mesirus nefesh for his yiddishkeit despite his imprisonment.
In a voice filled with emotion, Edelstein spoke about his stubborn commitment to davening and putting on Tefilin every day while in prison. He called to the young men and women who were eagerly listening, to always be proud of their Yiddishkeit.
He unfolded before them what Jewish life was like 33 years ago in Moscow. He told of the mesirus nefesh of the legendary Chasidim, Reb Getche Wilensky (whom he referred to as “one of the 36 hidden tzadikim”), Reb Avrohom Genin, and others.
He wove personal stories from his life into his talk, and his voice choked with tears as he described the bris mila that was done in hiding, under the ever-watchful eyes of the KGB, by the Chassidic mohel Reb Mottel der Shochet. As he spoke, there was not a dry eye in the crowd.