Thirty years after his release from a Soviet labor camp, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein returned to Moscow Wednesday as a head of state and addressed the Russian Federation Council, the upper house of the Russian parliament.
“Thirty-three years ago I was imprisoned here in Moscow by the authorities of the Soviet Union for teaching the Hebrew language,” Edelstein said in Hebrew. “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 the Knesset, 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 a representative of.”
Speaking in Russian, Edelstein noted Israel’s resilience, having fought many wars, while stressing that the country still faces numerous threats, including Iran-backed Hezbollah in the north and Hamas, “which chooses terror over the well-being of Gaza’s citizens,” in the south.
“In the 21st century, terror has replaced Nazism as absolute evil. We see almost every week vehicles running over innocent bystanders, and suicide bombers blowing up schoolchildren at concerts.
“We must create an atmosphere of mutual respect between the different countries. An atmosphere that will facilitate closer cooperation in the fight against terror, so that no one will have to look into the eyes of a mother who lost her only son in a terror attack.
“I believe this is possible. We can defeat terror, but only by boldly fighting against it, side by side.”
Concluding his speech, Edelstein asked to convey a message from Yerushalayim in Hebrew.
Yerushalayim, he said, is “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 concluded with the passuk in Tehillim: “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 L-rd our G-d I will seek thy good.”
During a tour of Moscow, he visited the site of his arrest, the courthouse where his trial took place, the prison in which he was incarcerated, and more.