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  • Writer's pictureAnat Zalmanson-Kuznetsov

Sharansky's matzah in Soviet Solitary confinement


"I celebrated the first Passover Seder of my life with my fiancé at the time, Avital (then Natasha), in Moscow. Three Hebrew teachers brought all of their students together for one big Seder in a Moscow apartment.

As we didn’t know Hebrew well enough to read from the Haggadah, the teachers gave each of us a short part to memorize. We didn’t understand many of the words, expressions or sentences, yet one line in particular we didn’t just understand… we felt:

…ela sh’bkhol dor v’dor omdim aleinu l’khaloteinu” – “in each generation, they stand against us to destroy us…”

It was enough to simply look out the window and see the KGB agents surrounding the apartment to know that we ourselves were continuing the Exodus from Egypt."


Natan Sharansky's First Seder
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1. What is the reason that Sharansky was in a Soviet prison?

Answer: Sharansky was a Refusenik and was in contact with human rights organizations in the free world. In 1977, a film was released in the Soviet Union called "Soul Traders" in which zionist activists were accused for spying.

Shortly afterwards Sharansky was arrested on charges of espionage, incitement and anti-Soviet propaganda. He was sentenced for 13 years of hard labour.

2. Would anyone be arrested and banned in Israel/USA/Canda/UK/Australia because they want to leave the country?

3.What do the words "incitement" and "espionage" mean? Is this the definition for people who want to leave a country?

4. Which Haggasha phrase did Natan Sharansky say when he was in the solitary confinement on Passover?

Answer: This year we are slaves, next year free men; this year we are here, and next year in Jerusalem.”

5. Why do you think it was important for Sharansky to celebrate Passover even alone in the solitary confinement?

6. What is the special connection between the prisoners of Zion from the USSR and the story of the Exodus on Passover?

Answer: According to Nathan, he felt more free in the dungeon when he said what he believed in than he felt in all the years before he became an aliyah activist, when he was ostensibly free in his body but constantly living in fear and concealment of his beliefs and thoughts.

7. Are there times in our lives when we behave in a way that does not reflect what we really think? Why? How would we feel if we had to do it all the time or were we being punished?

Avital Sharansky, Natan's wife, at a demonstration for his release.


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