Yuli Edelstein

“Yuli Edelstein”

Yuli Edelstein, one of the most famous Russian Refuseniks and currently the Speaker of the Knesset told the following story at the annual International Tanach-bee event: “I was released from prison and granted permission to make Aliyah in 1987. I arrived in Israel shortly after. I was greeted on the runway by a respectable delegation from the Ministry of Absorption who provided me and my family with a large vehicle. We made our way directly from the tarmac to the Kotel. This, before officially registering as a citizen. The driver of the van was a recent Russian immigrant himself and we spoke Russian between ourselves – although he didn’t know the difference between “Kotel” and “Cottage”. As we approached Jerusalem, we could see the first lights of the Ramot neighborhood revealing themselves. With all of that history leading up to this moment, I started crying with my family. At the first traffic light in the city the driver stopped to ask the driver in the next lane how to get to the Kotel. He too was new in the country and he broke his teeth trying to understand the directions. The light turned green and the person helping us sped off. I took it upon myself to figure this out. I’m only in the country two hours and I’m already negotiation with passersby, trying to locate Agron Street. What’s an Agron? By the look of the flags and the ancient walls rising up above the city I understand that we’ve made it. Now, all we need to do is figure out which gate to go through. I had studied about the various entrances in my studies at home, but that was all theoretical. And as time passed my anxiety around the issue intensified, I new that a thousands of people were waiting at the Kotel for a reception ceremony, and here I am, getting later by the moment and lost without a map. I told the driver to stop, we’d walk the rest on foot. Before stopping he sees three teenagers walking past and he jumps out of the van to call out to them, “Kotel! Kotel! Kotel! Where’s the Kotel?” They reply, “We’ll show you, if we can hitchhike with you.” They get in the van and they’re so excited about how nice it is. One punches my shoulder and asks, “I heard Yuli Edelstein is coming to the Kotel, did he get there yet?” I laughed and said, “Don’t worry, he won’t get there before you!”

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