MK Yuri Shtern, who died Tuesday morning at age 58 after a protracted battle with cancer, was laid to rest Tuesday afternoon in Jerusalem's Givat Shaul cemetery. "Yuri Shtern fought for Israel when he was in Russia, and never stopped fighting for it after he made aliya," Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said of the late Israel Beitenu MK in a statement released Tuesday. "Yuri was a cultured, educated man with deep roots in Judaism and Jewish heritage. He had uncompromising political views combined with unusual social sensitivity," Olmert's statement continued.
Character, and a constitution, by Yuri Shtern (archive)
Shtern, who held a doctorate in economics, was born in Moscow and made aliya in 1981. He began began his political career in former Likud MK Natan Sharansky's Israel B'Aliya party.
In 1999, when Avigdor Lieberman founded Israel Beitenu, Shtern joined the party. Israel Beitenu said Tuesday that it mourned Shtern, "a man of spirit and vision - a first-class legislator, a brave advocate of aliya from the former Soviet Unionâ€¦ his death is a great loss for his family, the party, the Knesset, and the state of Israel."
Shtern, a staunch advocate of aliya, was the founder of the Knesset's Christian Allies Caucus, a group dedicated to coalescing support for Israel among Christian groups, particularly evangelicals.
Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik issued a statement saying that the announcement of Shtern's "untimely death" had "stunned everyone."
"Yuri Shtern symbolized, for me, the Zionist oleh who settles into life in Israel and becomes part of the legislative activity. Yuri was an example of a dedicated and productive Knesset member," Itzik continued. "He was modest, direct, and respectful of others. He will be missed in the Knesset."
On Monday, due to his illness, Shtern was forced to miss for the first time a major event of the Christian Allies Caucus. Key Knesset and Christian leaders had expressed their regret that Shtern was unable to attend, and said that their prayers were with him.
The empty place on Israel Beitenu's Knesset list will be filled by Dudu Rotem, an attorney for the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea, Samaria, and the Gaza Strip, who has represented Israel Beitenu in all the political debates hosted by The Jerusalem Post.
Shtern is survived by his wife and two children. His funeral procession is scheduled to begin at four p.m. Tuesday from the Givat Shaul cemetery in Jerusalem.
Gil Hoffman and Sheera Claire Frenkel contributed to this report.