JUNE 29, 2017 – Israeli Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein delivered a historic speech Wednesday at the Russian Federation Council – the upper house of the Russian parliament in Moscow – 30 years after he was released from a Soviet labor camp for his Zionist activism.
“Thirty-three years ago I was imprisoned here in Moscow by the authorities of the Soviet Union for teaching the Hebrew language,” Edelstein said in Hebrew to open his address.
“Today, I stand before you as the speaker of Knesset Yisrael (Israel), and, in the same language which I was imprisoned for teaching, I bless you with the ancient Jewish blessing, ‘Shalom aleichem,’” he said, using the greeting for “peace be upon you.”
Edelstein added, “Even in my finest dreams, I never believed I’d reach this moment.”
Speaking before the Russian Federation Council is an honor typically reserved for heads of state. Edelstein was invited by Federation Council Chairwoman Valentina Matviyenko to deliver a speech in reciprocation for her address to the Israeli Knesset last year. During Matviyenko’s visit, the Knesset and Federation Council signed a cooperation agreement.
While in Russia, Edelstein also visited personally significant sites such as the Moscow Choral Synagogue, the site of his arrest, the courthouse where his trial took place and the penitentiary where he was imprisoned.