An attempt to make Aliyah from the Ukrainian SSR in the 1980s was not only difficult but also dangerous. Jews wishing to move to Israel came across not only denial from the authorities, but also faced political and criminal prosecutions.
All this sounds like a terrible tale for a Ukrainian Jew today. Thousands of Jews from former Soviet Union countries move to Israel without any problems every year. They are being waited for here, help is always ready for them. Israel is ready to fight for every Jew.
This is only possible thanks to people like Yuli Edelstein, the Speaker of the Israeli Knesset.
In 1979, a young student from Chernivtsi, Yuli Edelstein, applied for an exit visa to emigrate to Israel. He was not allowed, he was expelled from his university, and five years later he was arrested. Edelstein was sentenced to three years in jail but was injured while in custody and was won over from the Soviet state by Israel.
Yuli managed to get to Israel in 1987 and immediately became actively engaged in social and political activities. He always paid special attention to the issue of assisting repatriates, working for decades for the good of Israel and supporting every olim.
A delegation of the Jewish Confederation of Ukraine visiting Jerusalem met with Yuli Edelstein — a living legend for every post-Soviet Jew. In recognition of his merits and as a sign of our respect and gratitude, we awarded Mr Edelstein with the honorary medal called A Thousand Hearts.
The medal was issued on the one hundredth anniversary of the repatriation on the Ruslan ship. This ship carried six hundred repatriates on board arrived in Jaffa from Odessa in 1919. Most of the Jews on board left the country with forged documents, fleeing from the pogroms and war. The third Aliyah is considered to have started with the arrival of the Ruslan ship.
We recognized Mr Edelstein’s work to improve repatriations, for his many years of work for the benefit of the Israeli diaspora and for his boundless devotion to Jewish communities around the world.
By Boris Lozhkin
Find out more about me and the Jewish Confederation of Ukraine here.