Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein on Wednesday delivered a heartfelt speech to the Russian Federation Council, the upper house of the Russian parliament in Moscow. Speaker Edelstein was invited on an official visit by Federation Council Chairwoman Valentina Matviyenko to give the speech exactly 30 years after he had completed a three-year sentence in a Soviet labor camp for his Zionist activities.
Edelstein opened his speech in Hebrew, saying, “Thirty-three years ago I was imprisoned here in Moscow by the authorities of the Soviet Union, for teaching the Hebrew language. I was imprisoned because I was teaching the language which spread to the world the ideas of rejecting tyranny, upholding the rule of justice, love of mankind, and the hopes of freedom; the language in which the prophets of Israel foretold the day on which ‘Nation shall not lift up sword against nation nor will they learn war anymore.’ I was imprisoned because I worked to disseminate the language in which Abraham, the founder of the Jewish religion, was told ‘Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.'”
“Today, I stand before you as the Speaker of Knesset Yisrael, and, in the same language which I was imprisoned for teaching, I bless you with the ancient Jewish blessing: ‘Shalom Aleichem!’ Even in my finest dreams, I never believed I’d reach this moment. For me, this brings double closure: For me, Yuli Edelstein, and for the entire Jewish nation, which I stand here as its representative.”
Continuing in Russian, Edelstein described Israel’s resilience and survival despite the many wars it has fought, while stressing that the country still faces numerous threats, including Iran-backed Hezbollah in the north and Hamas, “which chooses terror over the wellbeing of Gaza’s citizens,” in the south.
Addressing global terror, Speaker Edelstein said that “in the 21st century, terror has replaced Nazism as absolute evil. We see almost every week vehicles running over innocent bystanders, and suicide bombers blowing up school children at concerts. We must create an atmosphere of mutual respect between the different countries. An atmosphere that will facilitate closer cooperation in the fight against terror, so that no one will have to look into the eyes of a mother who lost her only son in a terror attack. I believe this is possible. We can defeat terror, but only by boldly fighting against it, side by side.”
At the conclusion of his speech, Speaker Edelstein asked to convey a blessing in Hebrew from Jerusalem, “the eternal capital of the Jewish People, from which the message of justice and the war against evil has been coming out for nearly 3,000 years.” He then recited the following verse from Psalms: “Peace be within thy walls, and prosperity within thy palaces. For my brethren and companions’ sakes, I will now say: ‘Peace be within thee.’ For the sake of the house of our God I will seek thy good.”