Yaffa Issachar lands in Israel, hopes Putin will release her daughter

Anticipation is high that Russian President Vladimir Putin during his Thursday visit to Israel will announce his intention to pardon and release the 26-year-old yoga teacher.

Yaffa Issachar speaks to Israeli reporters after returning to Israel from Russia on January 19, 2020 (photo credit: screenshot)
Yaffa Issachar speaks to Israeli reporters after returning to Israel from Russia on January 19, 2020
(photo credit: screenshot)
Yaffa Issachar flew out of Moscow on Sunday teary eyed having left her daughter Naama in a Russian jail, but arrived at Ben-Gurion Airport hopeful that this week she will finally hear news of her daughter’s release.
“I came because this is the ‘moment of truth’ for Naama,” said Yaffa as she spoke with reporters in the arrivals hall.
Behind her, balloons flew as families and friends waited to be united. Someone yelled out “Mom.”
Anticipation is high that Russian President Vladimir Putin during his Thursday visit to Israel will announce his intention to pardon and release the 26-year-old yoga teacher.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke with Putin last week. He then published a statement in which he said he was optimistic there would be progress on the case.
On Sunday, he reported on the conversation at the start of the weekly governmental meeting.
“I hope that on the occasion of the visit, we will also hear good news soon,” Netanyahu said.
The Jerusalem Post’s sister paper Maariv reported that Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov is set to meet with Social Equality Minister Gila Gamliel on Tuesday to discuss the possibility of a pardon for Naama.
Yaffa told reporters she too was hopeful that “this week we will know when she will be released.”
It would not be an “easy week,” Yaffa said as she asked Naama’s supporters to lay low in advance of Putin’s visit. Yaffa said she hoped to meet with Netanyahu during her time in Israel this week, but as of Sunday night no such meeting had been scheduled.
“I respect President Putin. I believe that he will pardon her and return Naama home as soon as possible,” Yaffa said.
“I have faith and hope” that the next step will Naama’s return,” Yaffa said.
She described how earlier in the day, “I left [Moscow] in tears because I left her there. If there are no surprises, I will go back to bring her [home].”
Later in the day Yaffa sent a message to all the activists who had worked on her daughter's behalf and asked them to cancel any protest activities they had planned for this week because this week is a "critical, fragile and sensitive time" with regard to Naama's fate.
Their efforts, she said, had raised public awareness of Naama's plight and helped create the atmosphere that could potentially lead to her release.
Yaffa likened the experience to being on a roller coaster that changed course every few hours as it rode through a rumor mill. "It's also been a mental roller coaster for my family and myself," she said.
"You have done a wonderful job," Yaffa told the activists, adding that it was time now to allow for the negotiations between Russia and Israel to advance. "I'm optimistic and you should be as well," Yaffa added.

Naama was arrested in April while on a layover in Moscow’s airport on her way back to Israel from India. Russian authorities stopped her at the gate of her departing flight prior to boarding after claiming they found 9.5 grams of cannabis in her checked luggage. At no point did Naama leave the airport, nor did she have any intention of leaving the airport. She has denied the charge levied against her.
She is widely believed to have been jailed and sentenced last year as part of a failed diplomatic maneuver to prevent Israel from extraditing alleged Russian computer hacker Alexei Burkov to the United States. That extradition has since gone through.
There is wide sympathy in Israel for her case, and Netanyahu is under public pressure to get her released.