natan sharansky 224.88.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
"The struggle of Soviet Jewry was an event with no precedent in Jewish history," recalled former Prisoner of Zion and cabinet minister Natan Sharansky in a conversation with The Jerusalem Post on Monday. "The whole Jewish world joined in."
And while acrimonious debate and disagreement marked the conduct of the struggle through the '60s and '70s, in retrospect, the struggle was "an example of a special cooperation between official and unofficial groups, between students and religious Jews, between Jews and non-Jews," Sharansky said.
To mark the event, a public committee has been established that will work to commemorate and educate about the struggle. At its first meeting Monday evening, committee members chose Sharansky as its chairman.
"We had many arguments and disagreements then," said Sharansky of the committee members.
"Now, when we sat at the same table, we remembered with a smile all those fights. This is important to remember today, when we're fighting other wars among Jews," he said.
"If we don't do something now, it will all be lost," said former minister of immigrant absorption Yuli Edelstein, who will direct the committee's activities.
"In 20 years, we'll start looking for 80-year-olds who remember," he told the Post on Monday, adding that "now is the time to find the way to convey that struggle."
The first event that will commemorate the 40-year anniversary will be a large six-month-long display at Beit Hatefutsoth in Tel Aviv telling the story of the struggle. This will be followed by activities in schools throughout the country, in the IDF, the Knesset and other official institutions.
While there are no specific plans for activities in other Jewish communities around the world, Edelstein said he hopes to develop them.
"We've already been in touch with the Jewish Agency and Keren Hayesod, and we're thinking of bringing in the Foreign Ministry," he said.
"We will cooperate with groups from world Jewry," Sharansky promised, noting that one of the committee's goals would be "a renewed display of worldwide Jewish solidarity and a strengthening of Israel-Diaspora relations."
Besides Sharansky and Edelstein, committee members include former public security minister Uzi Landau, former prime ministerial spokesman Gad Ben-Ari, Judge David Bartov, former Soviet Jewish activist Prof. Victor Breilovsky and Loba Eliav.