Yuri Shtern, selfless fighter for his people

Dr. Yuri Shtern, a Knesset member who came on aliya from the former USSR in 1981, died Tuesday at the young age of 58.

yuri shtern 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
yuri shtern 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Dr. Yuri Shtern, a Knesset member who came on aliya from the former USSR in 1981, died Tuesday at the young age of 58. I knew this man. Not as a politician. He came into my office 20 years ago, needing a place to work - not a job. A place to work. To help new immigrants struggle with their first stages of aliya. Indeed, Yuri took a cubicle at Beit Agron where my offices are located and worked round the clock. After a few years of hard work, he came to the conclusion that he could only really help people if he would enter politics. So he ran on Natan Sharansky's Yisrael B'Aliya ticket, and later he ran on Avigdor Lieberman's Israel Beiteinu ticket. He served in the Knesset for more than 10 years, became chair of the Interior Committee and then chair of the Controls Committee. He regularly raised questions about corruption and brutality, which seem to have become endemic in public life in the past few years. No car. No special privileges. Flying only economy class when he traveled abroad. Yuri was there to do one thing: to help people in need. He worried about the people who were under threat of jail for debts. He was outraged at a system that allowed too much police brutality. And the final straw for Yuri was the government's wanton treatment of the people who were expelled from their homes in Gush Katif and northern Samaria. With every step in the twisted "disengagement" path, seeing how the government handled the process, Yuri developed severe headaches. When the High Court of Justice ruled in June 2005 that the expedited expulsion orders took precedence over what those of us on the Right saw as issues of human rights and civil liberties, I watched Yuri literally collapse in his office. "This is why we left the Soviet Union. This is what we fought against in the Soviet Union." A few months ago, in Yuri's way of saying goodbye, he gathered friends in his apartment to hear their plans about carrying on the struggle for a better and more just Israel. Yuri told us that the finest doctors had tried to diagnose the source of his disease and could not find one. Yuri told his doctors that it was the disengagement policy that was killing him. Remember the scene? The Neveh Dekalim synagogue being knocked down and Yuri being dragged out by the police when he dared question police tactics? You can think of Yuri as a fatality of disengagement. Yuri Shtern, a man who will be missed in the difficult times ahead of us. The writer heads the Israel Resource News Agency.