>>>The Fall of the Iron Curtain
The Fall of the Iron Curtain 2018-02-19T22:11:59+00:00

The Fall of the Iron Curtain

The Aliyah of the Jews of the Soviet Union

In the 1920, the “Iron Curtain” descended, closing off the Soviet Union from Western Europe. The term is the name given to the communist regime in Russia which brought about the separation of the Soviet Union from its neighbors and cut off its population, which was not allowed to leave the country. mb
Under Stalin’s dictatorial, oppressive rule, millions of Russians were murdered, among them many Jews. Stalin did not allow the Jews to live a Jewish life. He forbade the practice of anything related to Jewish or Zionist content, forcing Judaism and the observance of religious commandments to be practiced clandestinely. During World War II, there was an easing of the restrictions of the Iron Curtain and the war brought about a meeting of Soviet Jews with Jews from the rest of the world (survivors of the concentration camps, soldiers from the allied forces and the Jewish Brigade) and with Jews in areas annexed by the Soviet Union, such as Lithuania.

After the establishment of the State

The establishment of the State of Israel aroused great enthusiasm among the Jews of the Soviet Union, however, the Russian regime responded with a campaign of defamation against Zionism and the State of Israel. In the 1950s, the Jews of the Soviet Union experienced persecution, serious abuse and violence. They were arrested by the KGB, they were attacked and they disappeared. The Jewish intellectuals – poets, writers, artists and journalists – were murdered. Jewish schools and theaters were closed. In 1953, Stalin died, however the policy of persecuting Jews continued.

אסירי ציון

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הניצחון והתרוממות הרוח של מלחמת ששת הימים הגיעו עד רוסיה והשפיעו על יהדות רוסיה והיא מתחילה בפעילות מחתרתית ציונית, תוך איום מתמיד של מאסרים וחקירות של הקג”ב. בכלא כבר יושבים “אסירי ציון”- יהודים שנכלאו על רצונם ומאמצם לעלות לציון, לארץ ישראל.
ב- 1970 מתחילה פעילות ציבורית למען יהודי ברית המועצות וב- 1971 מגיע לארץ גל העולים הראשון מרוסיה לארץ ישראל. אך ישנם יהודים שהשלטון בברה”מ עדיין לא מאפשר להם לעלות לארץ ישראל והם מכונים “מסורבי עליה”.
למען אסירי ציון ומסורבי העלייה מתנהל מאבק ציבורי בזירה הבינלאומית ובעקבות הלחץ הציבורי שוחררו אסירי ציון.
ב-1991 נפלה ברית המועצות הקומוניסטית – והחלו גלי עלייה גדולים מברית המועצות ארצה.

Natan Sharansky – the story of a Prisoner of Zion

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Natan (Anatoly) Sharansky was born in the Ukraine on January 20, 1948. He is the chairman of the Jewish Agency. In the past, he was a Prisoner of Zion and a refusenik, a person who was denied permission by the authorities to emigrate. He has been a politician, a minister in the Israeli government and a political ideologist.
“We grew up without knowing anything about our identity, not the language, not the traditions, not words, like Purim and Passover, not words like Bar Mitzvah or Brit Mila. We knew we were Jews. It was written on our parents’ identification cards. When we were children, the message from our parents was clear: Because you are Jewish, it’s like some kind of disease, you have to be the best at school. The medicine for being Jewish is being the best in your profession and that’s how you’ll get along.”

“I was 19 years old and I studied at a prestigious institute of higher learning for music, which was very hard for Jews to be accepted at. I started to wonder why I was being linked to Israel and I started to secretly read books that Jewish tourists would bring. I suddenly realized that if I would only make a switch in my thinking, I wouldn’t be part of the history of the brutal Soviet Empire, but that my history started 2,000 years ago with the exodus from Egypt. I felt that I could be part of that history. I discovered that there was a Jewish people and the State of Israel, that is ready to send planes to the ends of the earth. Several years later, Operation Entebbe was such a significant event. And even when they came to arrest me, I had a picture of Yoni Netanyahu on the wall. Entebbe was such a strong message, that the State of Israel will reach you. All those things together, that there is a history, a people and a state, gave me the strength to be free.

In 1973, Sharansky applied for an exit visa to Israel, but his request was denied because of “security” reasons. He remained in the Soviet Union and was extremely active in the Zionist movement. On March 5 1977, he was arrested and in 1978, he was accused of treason and spying for the United States. He was sentenced to 13 years imprisonment, of which 16 months were in Lefortovo Prison in Moscow, often in solitary confinement or in a special torture chamber when he was questioned by the KGB. From there, he was moved to the infamous labor camp for prisoners in Siberia (Gulag).

At his sentencing, when Sharansky was sent to long years in prison, he courageously turned to the judge and spoke these words: “Your honor, you think that you are free! You believe that because after the trial is over, you will go home, and I will be enslaved, because I will go to prison for a long time. However, you should know that of the two of us, I am the truly free man. True, my body will be enslaved, but my spirit will remain free because I will feel that I didn’t give in to your decrees and I remained faithful to my beliefs. But you, the judge, were told what to say in advance. True, your body is free, but you are not free to decide according to your beliefs. Your spirit is enslaved and that is far graver.”
From the book, Fear No Evil.

During the years that Sharansky was imprisoned, he became a symbol of the struggle for human rights of the individual and a symbol of the struggle for all of Russian Jewry. His wife, Avital, worked for his freedom all the years that he was imprisoned. She made aliyah to Israel on July 5, 1974, one day after they got married, hoping that he would quickly follow. She organized a political diplomatic lobby that included ministers, members of Knesset and many ordinary people. They called out, “Free Anatoly Sharansky”, but their efforts were to no avail until 1986 when Sharansky was freed in a prisoner exchange between the East and the West. He arrived in Israel on February 11, 1986 and was greeted at the airport by high-level government officials, including the serving prime minister, Shimon Peres. Sharansky received a hero’s welcome.

The surprising phone call that gave the strength to survive in Siberia
(From a report on Channel 2)

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