The Secrets of Israel -Slideshow & guided discussion

Updated: Mar 27

עברית


The Israeli government led the struggle for the Jews of the USSR, but at the same time acted behind the scenes: assisting various Jewish organizations in the Diaspora to encourage support for the struggle for the Jews of the USSR.

In this lesson we will discuss secret activities of the Israeli government - in retrospect, was it right to keep a secret or not?



Materials

Slideshow

Slideshow_ The Secrets of Israel
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Introduction

In 1952, under the direct directive of then-Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, a special organization was set up for the liberation of the Jews of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe who were imprisoned behind the "Iron Curtain." This organization later became known by various names, one of which was the "Liaison Office". But the best known and most familiar name of all is "Nativ" (in hebrew in means "Path.")

Until 1990, Nativ was considered a semi-secret body, operating at high risk.


The Soviet regime banned Jewish life, but prevented Jews from leaving for Israel.

In the eyes of the Soviet leadership - the exodus of the Jews was a symbol of the failure of propaganda that the Soviet Union is a paradise on earth.

The Israeli struggle angered the Soviets greatly.

The Jews who dared to come into contact with Israelis were persecuted and some were even imprisoned and thrown into prisons. Nativ members were charged with espionage and expelled from the state, but nothing deterred Nativ from continuing its mission.


Many of Nativ's missions were done in secret, and despite their great success, a large portion of them to this day are not even known to the people who were involved. Complaints are often heard that the Israeli government was not involved enough, without knowing that it was in fact behind most of the important actions.

Why were the actions kept secret? Was the decision for secrecy right?

In this lesson we will discover a number of secrets and discuss them.


Procedure

Present the slideshow which includes pictures and videos while discussing each page:


Page 1: Title


Page 2: Background and glossary

Explain your students: A prisoner of Zion is a person who has been imprisoned or exiled because of Zionist activity and his desire to immigrate to Israel, in a country where this activity was prohibited. The origin of the term is in the words of Rabbi Yehuda Halevi: "Zion, do not ask for the peace of your prisoners."


Question: What actions do you think the prisoners of Zion were arrested for?

Answer: Distribution of Hebrew textbooks Learning Hebrew, or listening to foreign radio, was considered "espionage". Writing an open letter or saying an opinion criticising the state, was considered betrail, which had punishment of up to seven years in labour camps. Many other examples which in the eyes of man in the free world do not seem plausible.


Trivia fact: The first prisoner of Zion was before the establishment of the state, in the early 1920s. In total there were about 3,000 prisoners of Zion most of them from the Soviet Union and also from Eastern Europe, Ethiopia and Islamic countries.


Page 3: The Soviet Union

Explain your students: The Soviet Union was one of the two superpowers in the world (along with the United States), but this power did not last and disbanded in 1991, only after 74 years of existence.

The occupying government tried to erase any non-Russian communist identity.

In the Soviet Union there were 3 million Jews, but the policy was against religion, any religion.


The Soviet regime banned Jewish life, but on the other hand prevented Jews from entering Israel.


In the eyes of the Soviet leadership – the departure of the Jews was a symbol of the failure of propaganda that the Soviet Union is a paradise on earth.


Therefore, any expression of Judaism, *Zionism, sympathy for Israel or the desire to immigrate to Israel was considered treason.


Many were arrested without actual crime, and sent to prison for espionage or treason.


The Soviet government treated citizens as state property, and it was forbidden to leave the country without special permission: not for a trip and certainly not to leave the USSR. Anyone who wanted to leave had to go through the Interior Ministry, and usually get a refusal (AKA Refusenik).


According to the USSR, the Soviet society is superior and preferable and so a sane person will not want to leave. If someone is interested in leaving, it's a sign that he needs remedial education in order to get him back on track.


In the Soviet Union, unemployment was prohibited by law.


The Refuseniks, marked as “traitors”, were often fired from their jobs after applying to leave, and thus became criminals.



Page 4: Protective censorship

Explain your students: In Israel, there was journalistic censorship of sensitive issues, issues that, if published, could harm the country and its security. One of the covert operations was an activity to liberate the Jews. One of the sources of fear of harm was even before the establishment of the state, after secret negotiations between the leadership of the Jewish community and senior Soviet diplomats in Geneva and Paris in 1935-37. Submit a list of names of people who wanted to leave the USSR (some of whom had already been imprisoned for Zionist activity).

After the negotiations, the Soviet diplomats stopped their contact with the Jewish Agency and the issue was dropped.

But there remains a fear that these names will now be used to give people more severe punishments and there remains a sense that the Zionist movement has betrayed activists, even though their intention was to release them. It is not known what happened to the list but since then it has been decided to refrain from publishing names or naming them and for many years the Soviets asked for more names, but the Jewish Agency did not give.

It should be remembered that this was before the establishment of the Israeli state and Israel needed the support of the USSR in the UN decision to establish a Jewish state (which was indeed adopted). Therefore, sensitive issues such as the exodus of Jews to Israel were kept secret at this stage. But the activity to liberate Jews was never stopped.


Discuss the questions:

What do you think you would do if you were in Israel's upcoming government?

Remember we did not yet have a state, so we were not a threatening body.

Do you think it was necessary from the beginning to allow censorship of names that wanted to come out, or to protect them from imprisonment?

Today in retrospect we know that public protest works but of course those who fight for justice often have to go through anguish until they are set free.



Page 5: Golda Meir's visit in Moscow in October 1948

Show students the video archive of Golda's visit to Moscow and then read from Golda's memoirs:

"Instead of 2,000 Jews who usually come to the synagogue on Rosh Hashanah, an audience of 50,000 was waiting for us," Golda recalls in her diary. "I could not believe it happened or even who these people are. Then I realized: they came - the good, brave Jews, to celebrate the establishment of the State of Israel. "

The Jewish question was not raised during Golda Meir's visit to Moscow. There was a fear that this would harm diplomatic relations between the superpower, the Soviet Union, and the young state.



Discuss:

Q: Why did people shout "We are alive!" ?

A: This is in the context of the end of World War II, many were murdered on the territory of the USSR and in addition "we are alive" - we are alive as Jews, we did not assimilate. This was a call for help.


Q: In your opinion, was it now possible to remove censorship?

A: It's hard to know in retrospect. But it seems the time has not yet come.

The Israeli government has not forgotten the Jews imprisoned behind the Iron Curtain and has begun a secret operation to evict them in various ways.


Page 6: Establishing "Nativ" (in the picture the first symbol of a Nativ)

Translate the message on the logo from Hebrew:

…And I have gathered you together and rescued you out of all places


Tell your students: In 1952, under the direct instruction of then-Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, a special organization was set up to liberate the Jews of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe who were imprisoned behind the "Iron Curtain." This organization later became known by various names, one of which was the "Liaison Office". But the best known and most familiar name of all is "Nativ."

Until 1990, Nativ was considered a semi-secret body, operating at high risk.

The Israeli struggle angered the Soviets greatly.

The Jews who dared to come into contact with Israelis were persecuted and some were even imprisoned and thrown into prisons. Nativ members were charged with espionage and expelled from the state, but nothing deterred Nativ from continuing its mission.


Many of Nativ's missions were done in secret, and despite their great success, a large portion of them to this day are not even known to the people who were involved. Complaints are often heard that the Israeli government was not involved enough, without knowing that it was in fact behind most of the important actions.


The tasks facing the new organization were:

  • To maintain contact with the Jews, to bring them information about Israel and Zionism and most importantly to give them a feeling that the Jewish world has not abandoned them.

  • Despite the sweeping ban on leaving the country, the Soviets occasionally allowed, especially for adults, to "unite with family members" abroad. In the late 1950s, Poland and the Soviet Union agreed to the exodus of Polish citizens trapped in Soviet territory, including many Jews, most of whom did not stay in Poland and immigrated to Israel.

  • Little Israel has realized that it is like David coming out against the formidable Goliath. Therefore, she needed support and assistance from Jews all over the world. The people of "Nativ" managed to reach many communities and stimulate them to fight for Soviet Jewry.

Page 7: Soviet Jewry

Tell the students:

Just as the Nazis wanted to exterminate the Jews physically, so the Soviet regime set itself the goal of eradicating the Jews spiritually: Hebrew teaching was banned, restrictions were placed on the existence of Jewish tradition and religion, Jewish schools were closed and more.

The Pravda newspaper (a daily newspaper in the USSR, the official of the Communist Party) reads: "The State of Israel has nothing to do with the Jews of the USSR, we have no problem with Jews and therefore the Jews of the USSR have no need for Israel."

There were about 2.5 million Jews in the Soviet Union during those years. Some really felt part of the Soviet people but most, mainly because of anti-Semitism, felt an affinity for Judaism, Zionism and the State of Israel.

Ask the students:

  1. Why do you think the official declaration of the Soviet leadership was to appropriate the Jews of the USSR as Soviet citizens regardless of the Jewish people?

  2. What would have happened to the Soviet Union if they had given free exit, as in the rest of the West?


Page 8: The Six Days War


Tell the students:

In 1967, the Six Day War broke out.

The Soviet Union, which supported the Arab states, severed its diplomatic relations with the State of Israel.

The Israeli embassy closed and diplomats, including members of Nativ, were forced to leave the Soviet Union.

Within the Soviet Union, the media, television, radio and the press conducted unbridled anti-Israel propaganda that more than once limited overt anti-Semitism.

Israel was compared to Nazi Germany and the Jews became the target of harassment and insults.

In the Soviet Union, it was claimed that Great Israel had attacked the Arab states. While in reality the reality was the opposite: Israel the small state was forced to preempt a cure for Mecca and attack huge Arab policies that threatened to destroy it.


On the other hand, Israel's brilliant victory brought great pride to the Jews, many of whom also began to think, why should they stay in a country that does not want them, imposes restrictions on them and tramples on their national dignity.

All this led to a growing interest in mass aliyah, especially underground Zionist organizations whose entire activity was for aliyah to Israel.


Discuss with the students:

What is the meaning of the Soviet cartoons on pages 8-9?

  • If you were living in the Soviet Union at that time, how would you feel about seeing these cartoons in the newspapers?

  • Do you think that Soviet propaganda continues to influence world opinion of Israel to this day, in some places?


Page 10: The 1960's

Tell your students: During the 1960s, a period of renewed awareness of solidarity and human rights started. It was the right time to start acting in public. Demonstrations against the Vietnam War, against racism among African Americans, in favor of equal rights for women - the struggle for freedom of exit for Soviet Jewry also began.


Page 11: Breaking censorship / Jews of silence


Tell your students: The book "1969Jews of Silence" by Eli Wiesel, was published in 1966 and emphasizes his encounters with the Jews of the Soviet Union and the silence of Western Jews in the face of their plight.

The book "Jews of Silence" caused a stir all over the world. He brought the silence of the Jews in the USSR to the attention of the citizens of the free world in general and the people of Israel in particular. At the end of his journey, Eli Wiesel writes, "I believe wholeheartedly that despite their torments, fears and humiliation, the Russian Jews emerged victorious from the struggle and will honor the people who kept their faith."


Only today can it be said that the idea and funding for Wiesel's trip, for the purpose of researching the book, was given by Nativ.

To this day, even those who were at the forefront of activities for the Jewishness of the USSR do not know this.

Ask the students:


Q: Who are the "Jews of Silence?" The Jews of the Soviet Union, or the Jews of the West?

A: Although many were confused, Wiesel's intention was for Jews in the West who were not fighting for Soviet Jewry.

Q: Why do you think Nativ, who booked and left the trip in secret and especially after the success of the book, did not take credit?

A: The attitude of Nativ and the State of Israel was that it alone could not stand up to a world power. If it was known that the investigation of the book was funded by the Israeli government, it could be argued that this is Israeli propaganda. But if the struggle comes from the citizens, it will be accepted in a more credible way.



PAGE 12: The protest intensifies

How can a protest be made for the Jews of the Soviet Union if they themselves do not ask for help?

Jews in Israel and the United States already knew about the plight of Soviet Jews, but for fear of their fate, very few people openly declared their desire to leave the Soviet Union and immigrate to Israel. And fight for their right to leave the Soviet Union:


1967: Letter from Yasha (Yaakov) Kazakov, a 20-year-old guy from Moscow, who, after receiving a refusal, wrote a letter that was published in the Washington Post.

Read parts of the letter:

I, Yaakov Yosifovich Kazakov, a Jew, born in 1947, live at 6 Tartia-Instituskaya Street, Apartment 42, Moscow, relinquish my Soviet citizenship and from the moment I give my first notice of relinquishment of my Soviet citizenship, i.e. from July 13, 1967, I do not consider myself a citizen Soviet Union.

Since there are no conditions for the existence of a Jewish people in the Soviet Union, Jews wishing to leave the Soviet Union should be allowed to do so (just as has been done in other countries, for example, Romania and Poland).

I am a Jew, and as a Jew I believe that the State of Israel is my homeland, the homeland of my people, and the only place on earth where there is an independent Jewish state, and I, like any other Jew, have the undoubted right to live in that state.

The Jewish people have their own right to their own independent state, and every Jew, no matter where he lives, and wherever he is born, has the right to live in the Jewish state. "

In December 1968, one of Kazakov's copies of a reference was published in the Washington Post, which was published by Nativ's representative in the United States, Nehemiah Lebanon, demanding that the Soviet authorities renounce his citizenship. His public statement was the first of its kind to publicly challenge the Soviet authorities, which sweepingly prevented Soviet Jews from leaving its territory unless they had first-degree relatives in Israel who sought "family reunification" (and those with relatives in Israel would also be refused. for most). In February 1969, following the publication, the authorities informed Kazakov that they were allowing him to leave for Israel and that he must leave the country within two weeks. In doing so, Kazakov was in fact the first Jew to receive permission to leave the Soviet Union and immigrate to Israel without relatives in Israel.



PAGE 13: The Letter Of 18 Families

In Georgia, the Soviet Union, 1969 - Shabtai Elhashvili; A religious, Zionist Jew, whose repeated requests for approval to immigrate to Israel were refused, organized a group of 18 heads of Jewish families, all of whom are denied. He convened them, and proposed his plan - to smuggle to the West an open letter, with their explicit names, describing their suffering and demanding that they be allowed to immigrate to Israel. All the guests expressed their readiness for the move, not before Shabtai made sure it was clear to each of them what risk they were taking, including the risk of life itself.

Taking a real risk, Elhashvili managed to outwit the guarding of Soviet security services around the Dutch embassy, ​​infiltrate it, personally approach the Dutch ambassador (who after the severance of relations represented Israel) in Moscow and hand over the letter, requesting that he be forwarded to Yosef Tekoa. The letter is addressed to the UN Commission on Human Rights. Read selected excerpts from the letter:

"We, 18 religious Jewish families from Georgia, ask you to help us go to Israel. Each of us was invited by a relative in Israel. Each of us received the necessary forms from the qualified Soviet institutions and filled them out.

Each of us has been given oral promises that they will not put obstacles in the way of his exit. Each of us waited day after day for the exit permit, sold his property and was released from his place of work.

However, many months have passed, and for many - years, while the exit has not yet been granted a permit. We sent hundreds of letters and telegrams - they disappeared like tears in the desert sands. We hear short words of refusal orally, but we do not see written answers, no one explains anything to us, our fate does not bother anyone. But we are waiting, because we believe. "


"Our prayers are related to Israel, as it is said: 'If I forget you, Jerusalem, forget my days.'" And here the letter details at length the history of the deep connection between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel.


And he continues: "The prophecy has been fulfilled - Israel has risen from the ashes. And we have not forgotten Jerusalem and our hands are needed for it.

We are eighteen families, who sign the letter. But whoever thinks that only 18 of us will be wrong.


The letter concludes with an address to the UN:

"History has placed a great mission on the United Nations - to think of human beings and help them. We therefore demand that the UN Commission on Human Rights take all necessary measures, and in the shortest possible time obtain a permit from the Soviet government to leave.

We know: our cries will reach human beings. For we do not demand much; Just let us go to the land of our ancestors. "

PAGE 14: The 35's Women For Soviet Jewry

In December 1970, a young Jewish librarian, Reiza Platnik, was arrested in Odessa, all of whom wanted to come to Israel. Platnik was accused of anti-Soviet activity and put on trial, which was to take place in May 1971, near her 35th birthday. Netiv's emissary in London and later the mayor of Be'er Sheva, Yitzhak (Izo) Reger, came up with a unique idea that was to draw the world's attention to Reiza's situation: he contacted 35 Jewish women aged 35 and asked them to come to the Soviet embassy in London . The operation was so successful that it soon became a female-Jewish movement for Soviet Jewry. The members of the organization, nicknamed the "35", were known as one of the most prominent organizations for the Jews of the Soviet Union. Their activities stood out in marketing and original protests that received headlines in the media. One of the important steps they took was to conceive the idea of ​​creating jewelry with the names of prisoners of Zion. They created a medallion in the shape of a Star of David from gold and launched the idea with the well-known actress Ingrid Bergman.

Read more about the 35's in the lesson: Protest, Present, Inspire

PAGE 15 - Summary

Since the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948, more than 3.4 million Jews have immigrated to Israel. Throughout its years of operation, since its inception in 1952, Nativ has been responsible for the immigration of more than 2 million Jews to Israel from the former Soviet Union and Eastern European countries: Poland, Romania, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, the former Yugoslavia and more. Out of these two million immigrants, about 1.2 million immigrants have come to Israel since 1989.




__________________________________________________________________

Research, editing and preparation of the lesson: Anat Zalmanson-Kuznetsov

Historical Counseling: Nati Cantorovich


Sources:

  1. ממשלת ישראל בחזית המאבק למען יהודי בריה"מ ומזרח אירופה

  2. ארכיון המדינה: גולדה מאיר - גאולה כהן - ראיון שערכה עם יאשה קאזאקוב (יעקב קדמי)

  3. How anti-Semitic Soviet propaganda informs contemporary left anti-Zionism

  4. ויקיפדיה יעקב קדמי

  5. יחיד מול מנגנון עצום ואכזר, מט"ח