web analytics
May 24, 2015 / 6 Sivan, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post


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

In the end however we purchased all twelve seats for a small plane, while four members of our group for whom there was no room were to wait for us in a forest.

YM: Where was the flight supposed to be from?

RYM: From Leningrad to Sweden. We would take over in the midst of the flight.

I’ll tell you a very interesting point concerning what was known as the “Leningrad Group” or the “Leningrad Zionist Committee”. They discussed what they knew of the plan and came to a decision that it was counter-productive and dangerous, not just for Butman [the head of the Leningrad ulpan with whom Mark Dymshits had shared his hijacking idea] but for the whole national movement and that we’d all go to prison. They wanted Butman to disclose all of the details and they demanded that it be stopped.

While Butman felt that it was the solution to our problem, they insisted on the slower process of Jewish revival, group meetings, some Jewish theatre, etc. We felt that under the Soviet reality their path was a waste of time.

When they felt that Butman was too stubborn and wouldn’t give up they proposed a compromise and suggested that the Israeli government be contacted in order to ask if it’s helpful to Israel. At that time some Israeli tourists would come to our activist meetings so we had a way to send an inquiry and receive an answer. It was obvious though that the answer would be negative. We in Riga told them that we cannot involve the Israeli government in any way since it was dangerous for Israel and its state interests. But some people in Leningrad were afraid and the request was sent. Finally we got a veto from Israel. It turned out that the request made it to the desk of Golda Meir, the Prime Minister at the time, so the answer we received was real.

We then decided that since we in Riga are not Leningrad, we’ll do it alone. In this way the whole plan came to our group.

YM: Did you really think there was a chance to succeed? After all, this was the Soviet Union and the KGB?

RYM: Did you ever hear of Mordechai Anielewicz and the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising? Did you think they had real plans?

Sometimes it happens in your life that you simply feel it’s the right thing to do. People that make all kinds of calculations frequently never act. We felt, at least a few of us, that it was our mission to do it for Am Yisrael [the Jewish people]. Although I never actually knew whether all sixteen of the people drafted for the mission believed it was a way to sacrifice oneself for a greater cause, I knew for certain that for me and two or three other leaders of the group that’s the way we felt. We had to start, we had to cry out.

15 June 1970 – The Day of the Planned Hijacking

YM: What was going through your mind the morning of the attempted hijacking? Were you scared? Worried?

RYM: I can only speak for myself. I felt that I was a soldier of the Israeli army, going out to perform the task the best way I can. The moment you are in battle you don’t think, you are not permitted to think. You have to go straight and fight.

YM: So what happened that day? How was the hijacking foiled?

RYM: Perhaps because of the blown operation that started in Leningrad a lot of people knew about the plans, so certainly it somehow reached the eyes and ears of the KGB. They then decided to let us play into their hands in order to arrest us red-handed on the spot. This way they could vilify our Zionist activities – “hijackers, bandits, weapons” – in order to crush the growing national movement exactly as the friends of the Leningrad Committee thought they would.

You have to understand that since this was not Stalin’s time but rather a time when Soviet Russia felt they had to be closer to the west, our movement had created a certain dilemma for the Soviet authorities. Namely how could they arrest people that only wanted to learn Hebrew or religion at a time that they were trying to be “socialism with a human face”? Such a move would certainly not make them look good. For this reason our hijacking plan gave them the perfect pretext to arrest us.

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.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

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.

Current Top Story
Tzipi Hotovely, new Deputy Foreign Minister.
Foreign Minister Hotovely: Tell the World ‘God Gave Israel to the Jews’
Latest Indepth Stories
Harris-052215

We take a whole person approach, giving our people assistance with whatever they need.

Shalev and Rabbi Levinger

During my spiritual journey I discovered G-d spoke to man only once, to the Jewish people at Sinai

MK Moshe-Feiglin

20 years after the great Ethiopian aliyah, we must treat them like everyone else; no better or worse

Sprecher-052215

Connecting Bamidbar&Shavuot is simple-A world without Torah is midbar; with Torah a blessed paradise

Many Black protesters compared Baltimore’s unrest to the Palestinian penchant of terrorism & rioting

She credited success to “mini” decisions-Small choices building on each other leading to big changes

Shavuot 1915, 200000 Jews were expelled; amongst the largest single expulsions since Roman times

Realizing there was no US military threat, Iran resumed, expanded & accelerated its nuclear program

“Enlightened Jews” who refuse to show chareidim the tolerance they insist we give to Arabs sicken me

Somewhat surprisingly, the Vatican’s unwelcome gesture was diametrically at odds with what President Obama signaled in an interview with the news outlet Al Arabiya.

The recent solid victory of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party produced something very different.

The reaction is so strong that nine times out of ten, parents engage in some form of coping mechanism before arriving at a level of acceptance of a special-needs diagnosis.

“…his neshamah reached out to us to have the zechus of Torah learning to take with him on his final journey.”

The gap isn’t between Israeli and American Jews-it’s between American Jews and the rest of the world

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.”

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: