• Issue: March 1972
  • Designer: M. Pereg
  • Plate no.: 349
  • Method of printing: Photolithography

Soviet Jews

When the Communist Revolution was successfully concluded and Stalin built an iron curtain around the USSR and its satellites, he also imprisoned the two million Jews who lived in Russia. Though the curtain served to cover and conceal some developments, the ancient bond between all parts of the Jewish people proved so enduring that even the thickest and most opaque curtain could not sever it completely. In various and sundry ways the Jews on both sides of the curtain found cracks through which they could continue to maintain the bond.

The Jews of the Western world have always known what was going on among their brothers in the USSR and vice versa. The most striking example of this bond is the case of the Passover matzot. Despite the attempts of USSR authorities to keep the ban on baking matzot secret, its echoes reached the West. Jews the world over united to organize the shipment of matzot to their Soviet brothers, and the whole world marveled at this evidence of national solidarity and brotherhood.

Such occurrences notwithstanding, the Soviet regime did indeed jeopardize the continued existence of the Jewish people. The Jews in the free world could do nothing to prevent the closing of Jewish schools and synagogues, a measure designed to erase their people's tradition and language from the hearts of Soviet Jews. Jewish communities, and with them the whole civilized world, followed with apprehension the Soviet attempt to inflict spiritual death on Soviet Jews. Disheartening reports reached the outside on assimilation and the estrangement of the young generation from its roots. Many people began to abandon hope for the continued existence of Jews within Soviet territory.

The Six-Day War produced an enormous change. The Jews of Silence - the silent acceptance of bitter reality - became the Jews of protest and revolt. Suddenly the whole world, and especially the Soviet authorities, were witness to the fact that all attempts to put down the spirit of the Jewish people disintegrated against the great rock of devotion and nationalism whose deep roots negated all possibility of severance or eradication. Those same young Jews, so often believed to be a generation removed from Judaism, suddenly took to going to the synagogues and expressing their identification with Judaism and with the State of Israel. And then the great call began to echo all around the globe: Let My People Go. Despite terror and intimidation, the sound of this call, symbolizing the desire of Soviet Jews to go to Israel, did not fade. It turned into a great chorus when the Jews of the entire world joined in. Lacking knowledge of the Jewish soul, Soviet rulers believed they could mute the chorus by means of prison, torture, and show trials. But the chorus grew louder, and it will not be stilled until the last Jew who wants to leave the Soviet Union has departed.

Jews In Arab Lands

No less heroic is the struggle of our people in the Arab countries. Their lives are in danger daily, even hourly, while the authorities do everything possible to make their lives miserable and at the same time prevent them from leaving for Israel.

The number of Jews left in Arab lands is not great, but they are in hostile countries with totalitarian governments, and this makes their struggle hard and cruel. Is there anyone who does not recall the ignoble trials of Jews in Iraq and the barbaric hangings in the town square? Who has not heard stories of the torture and degradation which are the portion of the Jews of Syria? Who is not grieved by the distress of Egyptian Jews? The list is long and tragic.

More than a thousand years ago the great Jewish poet Yehuda Halevi wrote from the depths of his heart: "How shall I savor what I eat, and how shall it please me, while Zion is under Edomite sway, and I am in an Arab land?" Israel is no longer under Edomite rule, but Jews are still being tortured in Arab countries. They are being denied not only national and religious life, but even elementary civil rights.

In Syria 12 young Jews were thrown into jail without trial and their fate is unknown. In the same country the secret police arrested innocent Jewish families for questioning which was accompanied by horrible torture. Jews in 11 Arab countries are forbidden to leave. Their property has been taken, and their homes confiscated on the pretext that they were needed to house Palestinian refugees. Jews in Arab countries are looked upon as hostages for Israel. They are treated like prisoners of war, without any of the rights accorded to such prisoners. They may not travel to other towns, or go a distance of more than three kilometers from the ghettos where they are confined. They are barred from all public institutions.

The suffering of Jews in Arab countries shocked the conscience of the world, and an International Committee for their benefit has been established in France under the leadership of M. Alain Poher, president of the French Senate. Yet torture and degradation have not diminished the stature of the Jews in the Arab countries, nor bowed their heads. They stubbornly continue to practice their religion, and wait patiently for the time when they will be able to go to their homeland.

The cry of "Let My People Go" will resound wherever the right of Jews to go to their homeland is repudiated. The attraction of Jews to the land of their forefathers has not faltered or failed since Moses was given the land of Israel to bring his people to. History abounds with ineffective attempts to suppress or destroy this age-old aspiration

As torment and torture increase, so does the will of the Jewish people, wherever they may be, to achieve their heart's desire, and so does their insistent appeal: Let My People Go!

top top

Let My People Go