RUSSIAN REDEMPTION: Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein Returns to Russia a Free Man

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein delivered a historic speech today in Moscow before the Russian Federation Council, the upper house of the Russian parliament. Speaker Edelstein, who was invited for an official visit by Federation Council Chairwoman Valentina Matviyenko, gave the speech 30 years to the day after he served a three-year sentence in a Soviet labor camp for his Zionist activities.

Edelstein opened up with the following statement:

“Thirty-three years ago I was imprisoned here in Moscow by the authorities of the Soviet Union for teaching the Hebrew language. I was imprisoned because I was teaching the language which spread to the world the ideas of rejecting tyranny, upholding the rule of justice, love of mankind and the hopes of freedom; the language in which the prophets of Israel foretold the day on which `Nation shall not lift up sword against nation; nor will they learn war anymore.` 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. For me, this brings double closure: For me, Yuli Edelstein, and for the entire Jewish nation, which I stand here as its representative.”

Edelstein touched on the success of Israel as well as the coninuted security challenges it faces. He urged great cooperation and communication in fighting terror.

The speech itself was the first spoken by any Israeli leader.  The honor is usually reserved for heads of state.  Jewish life in Russia under the Soviet regime was constantly threatened.  Despite the geopolitical differences between Putin and the West, Jewish life in Russia today is flourishing.

At the conclusion of his speech, Speaker Edelstein asked to convey a blessing in Hebrew from Jerusalem, “the eternal capital of the Jewish People, from which the message of justice and the war against evil has been coming out for nearly 3,000 years.” He then recited the following verse from Psalms: “Peace be within thy walls, and prosperity within thy palaces. For my brethren and companions’ sakes, I will now say: ‘Peace be within thee.’ For the sake of the house of the LORD our God I will seek thy good.

(Information in this article ​was Communicated by the Knesset Media and Public Relations Division)


For Gush Katif, a Memorial is all that Stands

It has been over ten years since the destruction and erasure of Gush Katif. Many of the families have moved on after years of homelessness.  Families have broken apart.  Kids have grown up with a distaste for the state. This should not be a surprise, after all their childhood was ruined by the very state sworn to protect them.

Ten years later and the government has finally given the people of Gush Katif something in return for their misery. Today a memorial statue has been placed in the Eastern entrance to the Knesset.

“It is only fitting that the Knesset, which decided [to evacuate the Gush Katif communities], will remember, and remind those who visit it of the communities of Gush Katif and northern Samaria – the [building of settlements], the agriculture and the settlers themselves. I hope this work of art will generate interest among the visitors of the Knesset,” Yuli Edelstein, the Speaker of the Knesset said at an unveiling today for the memorial statue.

Gush Katif is but a memory.  The pioneers and young families will be a few sentences in the history books.  Kids will be taught that there was a time when the State’s leaders were really the warriors of old. However, as these leaders grew older they turned their backs on the very ideology and land that nurtured their development.

When the slogan Never Again was made about the Holocaust, the point is not about not letting another Holocaust take place.  This is obvious.  The means to prevent a repeat of history is to say Never Again to being an exile minded Jew. Israel is meant to be more than memorial statues.  It is meant to be an engine that builds our redemption.

No one lost their lives or sacrificed to settle barren dunes to be rewarded a memorial statue. That is what a nation who wants to sacrifice its future on the alter of world acceptance does. Israel is not about abandoning the past. It is about tying our covenant and the Land that was given to us by the Almighty together in order to give a full expression to our prophetic charge of being a light unto the nations.

One day the memorial statue will be taken down.  Not because we don’t want to remember, but because one day the people of Gush Katif will return and liberate their stolen land.  They will no longer be a mere memory for the youth, but once again Gush Katif will exist in the present.  The Land of Israel nurtures its children. We in turn must be strong enough in faith to see our part of the covenant through.