web analytics
April 24, 2014 / 24 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
Spa 1.2 Combining Modern Living in Traditional Jerusalem

A unique and prestigious residential project in now being built in Mekor Haim Street in Jerusalem.



Rabbi Yosef Mendelevitch, Pioneering Russian Refusenik


Rabbi Mendelevitch and Avital Sharansky meet then-President Reagan and Vice President Bush.

Rabbi Mendelevitch and Avital Sharansky meet then-President Reagan and Vice President Bush.
Photo Credit: White House archives

Share Button

So I began my activities in 1964. I’m proud that I’m from the first generation of the Zionist movement after the war. I’m glad and feel privileged that things happened the way they did. Please keep in mind however that the reason I came to the forest was not by chance, it was not simply a coincidence. The moment I got involved, I felt this was exactly what I was looking for. I felt I was prepared for this.

Anatomy of a Hijacking

YM: I’m jumping ahead to 1970 and the hijacking attempt. Where did the idea come from? I mean, did you or one of your friends just wake up one day and say “hmm, let’s hijack an airplane”?

RYM: Don’t forget I began my activities in 1964 so by 1970 I was already involved for six years in a Jewish movement. In 1969 a whole underground national Jewish movement was created and I was appointed editor of a newsletter.

YM: How many people were involved in this national underground movement?

RYM: I’d say hundreds, although being an informal movement there was no exact number. Nevertheless, I’d say the core group was about one hundred people.

At this time Mr. Mark Dymshits, a former pilot in the Soviet air force, became a member of an underground ulpan (a place where Hebrew is taught) in Leningrad. He was a Zionist and for the first time he met a lot of people that felt like him. It made him think about our aspiration to do something so he suggested the idea of hijacking a plane to the head of the ulpan, Mr. Hillel Butman. Then through connections the idea came to me in Riga and thus it started.

YM: What was the goal of the hijacking and what was the logistical plan?

RYM: Let’s start with the goal. On an individual level everyone’s dream was to go to Israel, something that was simply impossible for Soviet Jews.

YM: Were you considered “refuseniks”?

RYM: Technically this was before the refuseniks which started in the 1970s although we were certainly similar. People simply couldn’t go abroad to any country, not just specifically to Israel.

So the first goal was a private one. I dreamt of being drafted into the Israeli army and studying in a yeshiva. In the Soviet Union there were no yeshivas and nothing similar.

The second goal was a national one to publicize our struggle for freedom, “let my people go.” We found out later that a parallel movement had started during approximately the same time period, mainly in the United States or as we used to say in “the free world.” It’s very interesting that both movements started together in the 1960s. Yaakov Birnbaum, Rabbi Kahane and others raised the issues exactly as we were feeling them. It was certainly from Heaven.

We felt we had to publicize the fact that there really were Jews in Soviet Russia that wanted to come back to their Jewish roots and were not interested in being assimilated and becoming a part of the Soviet nation. This was to counter the Soviet propaganda at the time which had succeeded in making an impression in the west that the Jewish issue was solved.

The lingering question was whether the Russians were so strong in their propaganda or the people in the west were simply ready to buy the lies in order to carry on with their comfortable lives – “It’s a pity but there’s nothing we can do.” Although we didn’t know all the details about the Jewish community in the west, we were surprised that it was so silent. We wanted to yell out “We’re still alive. Am yisrael chai! Don’t you care about us?”

Regarding the logistical part, Mr. Dymshits was himself a pilot. He felt if we all buy tickets and get on the plane we can just take over. While normal hijackers endanger the pilot and intimidate him, this was not our case.

The first plan was to take over a big airplane that we wanted to load up with Jewish families and children in order to demonstrate that it’s not just a small group of young men. Thus no one could call us hijackers.

Share Button

About the Author: Yoel Meltzer is a freelance writer living in Jerusalem. He can be contacted via http://yoelmeltzer.com.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

Leave a comment (Select your commenting platform)

One Response to “Rabbi Yosef Mendelevitch, Pioneering Russian Refusenik”

  1. Tzvi Fishman says:

    Rabbi Mendelevitch is indeed a true Jewish hero. His book "Unbroken Spirit" should be read by everyone. Especially by our young people who are so desperate for true Jewish heroes of bravery, idealism, and substance. I recommend the book highly.

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Loading Facebook Comments ...
Loading Disqus Comments ...
Current Top Story
US State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki.
America Joins Israel in Canceling Talks with PA
Latest Indepth Stories
Palestinian boys stand behind mock jail bars during a rally calling for the release of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails (but not from Palestinian Arab jails), in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on April 20, 2014.

The Palestinian Authority has jailed more than 350 Arabs for “security” reasons in just 2014.

Rabbi Auerbach seen at a ceremony for the students who have finished the reading of the Babylonian talmud, at Ammunition Hill in Jerusalem on July 31, 2012.

Since Torah is the great equalizer, the great reconciler of divergent but valid opinions, this is also the place where common ground is reached.

Dueling Shofarim

Some American Jews feel their community has been hijacked from within by groups waging war against Israel seemingly in the name of the Jewish people.

Al-Aksa Mosque was claimed to be the site from which Mohammed ascended to Heaven, but it was built nearly 50 years after Mohammed died.

Jerusalem only seems important in the Islamic world when non-Muslims control or capture the city.

Jordan’s king is adding fuel to the fire on the Temple Mount, blaming Israel for violence by Muslim Arab rioters.

At Brandeis, much of what counts as Western civilization got cold feet and won’t stand with Hirsi Ali.

But the lesson from this meditation is that hidden behind the anti-semitic act is the greatest light.

As support of their messianic dream, Halevi and Antepli approve dishonoring Hirsi Ali as a ‘renegade.’

If itis a mitzva to eat matza all Pesach, then why is there no berakha attached to it?

When we are united with unconditional love, no stone will be raised against us by our enemies.

The reporter simply reports the news, but it is greater to be inspired to better the situation.

The Big Bang theory marked the scientific community’s first sense of the universe having a beginning.

Freeing convicted murderers returns the status of Jewish existence to something less than sanctified.

“The bigger they are the harder they fall” describes what God had in mind for Olmert.

We, soldiers of the IDF, who stand guard over the people and the land, fulfill the hopes of the millions of Jewish people across the generations who sought freedom.

How much is the human mind able to grasp of the Divine?

More Articles from Yoel Meltzer
Photo: Naftali Bennett

In less than three months time the Jewish Home Party, formerly known as the National Religious Party (NRP), will be holding its first ever internal primaries.

Ayelet Shaked

The co-founder and former chairman of the MyIsrael (Yisrael Sheli) national movement, the recipient of the 2012 Abramowitz Israeli Prize for Media Criticism and a close associate of Naftali Bennett – the two worked together in the office of Benjamin Netanyahu prior to the 2009 elections – Shaked is raising some eyebrows due to the fact that she, unlike Bennett, is a secular candidate for HaBayit Hayehudi -a traditionally religious party.

On his attempt to hijack an airplane in 1970 to bring attention to the struggle of Soviet Jewry: “Sometimes it happens in your life that you simply feel it’s the right thing to do.”

“We need to work on instilling a good strong Jewish-Zionist identity in all of the children in Israel and not only in the religious ones. In other words we need to stop looking inward and start focusing on all of Am Yisrael.”

Rabbi Zuriel: “With the ingathering of the exiles, we need a Sanhedrin to implement various changes since Judaism is a developing matter; it’s supposed to be dynamic. He showed me in one of his works twenty items that the Tosafot changed. Today however, he added, we’re like the Karaites, we don’t want to change.

For anyone who is sick of the lies and hypocrisy – be it in Israel or the world – and really wants to work for change, it’s not enough to simply stand on the street corner and shout the truth. How something is said or how someone looks while performing an act frequently has more impact than anything else in the eyes and ears of the viewer.

Most Israelis understand that the funding of Israeli organizations by foreign governments is a way to enable these governments to advance their agenda of delegitimizing Israel.

Commenting on the role the sovereign nation-state plays in the western world compared with the Islamic world, the late Samuel P. Huntington, in his classic study The Clash of Civilizations and The Remaking of World Order, wrote: “The structure of political loyalty among Arabs and among Muslims generally has been the opposite of that in the modern West. For the latter the nation state has been the apex of political loyalty.”

    Latest Poll

    Now that Kerry's "Peace Talks" are apparently over, are you...?







    View Results

    Loading ... Loading ...

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/interviews-and-profiles/an-interview-with-rabbi-yosef-mendelevitch-pioneering-russian-refusenik/2012/06/18/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: