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June 14, 1991 - Image 64

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1991-06-14

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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NATAN SHARANSKY

Special to The Jewish News

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FRIDAY, JUNE 14, 1991

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DAILY 10-5:30
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mmediately after the
Shabbat meal on Friday,
May 24th, I was driven to
a military base near Ben-
Gurion. Airport. Soon after,
for the second time in my
life, I found myself virtually
the only passenger on a huge
airplane. Now, as then,
there were only four people
sitting around me. This
time, they were colleagues
— Israeli journalists — and
we were bound for Ethiopia.
Five years ago, the four
had been KGB men, my
honor escort on the journey
from a Soviet prison to
freedom. In that moment of
release, when suddenly after
nine years of struggle and
prayers I was lifted from the
darkness of the Gulag, I
wasn't told where they were
taking me. But the sun, like
the finger of God, pointed
the way: It was a flight to
freedom.
They had taken away all
my belongings — including
my prison uniform, which
had grown so familiar and
comfortable — giving me in-
stead ungainly and clammy
civilian clothes. But one
item, a little book of Psalms
given to me by my wife,
Avital, which was my corn-
panion in all the years of the
Gulag, I had at the last mo-
ment saved from the hands
of the KGB guards. It kept
me warm. Through the
triumphant "Psalms of King
David," God was bringing
me the joyous news: You are
free, you have won, you are
going to the land of Israel.
In the coming hours, I
would land in Berlin, be
reunited with my wife in
Frankfurt, arrive in Israel
and pray at the Western
Wall. Throughout, I was
surprisingly calm, confident:
as is a person who has
listened for the voice of God
and relied on Him, and wat-
ches with rapture and
without fear as events un-
fold and are fulfilled accor-
ding to His great, un-
fathomable design.
Now, five years later, as I
flew in the dark toward

Natan Sharansky is an editor
of the Jerusalem Report, from
which this is reprinted with
permission.

Addis Ababa on an El Al
plane whose markings had
been painted over, I was
suddenly seized by questions
and doubts: Why was it so
important to me to be on this
particular flight to Ethiopia?
So much so that I had in-
sisted my editor send me,
even on the Sabbath?
It is difficult to imagine
two Jewish communities
more disparate than those of
the Soviet Union and Ethio-
pia: white and black; the

We all began to
applaud and never
stopped during the
whole descent.

most isolated spiritually
from world Jewry and the
most isolated geographical-
ly; one group almost totally
assimilated, the other
preserving its Judaism even
after centuries of being cut
off.
Why, then, was I flying
toward Ethiopia? Was it be-
cause I was intrigued by
these Jews so different from
me? Or was it in order to
understand better the
Israelis who were ready to
put aside their differences,
drop everything and rush to
the rescue of these people at
once so remote and so close?
Was it perhaps to recover a
sense of the purity of the
Zionist dream which in the
harsh light of the realities of
daily life in Israel can seem
more like illusion than
dream?
Let there be no mistake:
My five years in Israel have
been full and happy. But
they have also been years of
descending from heaven to
earth. The simple, clear
lines of the struggle between
good and evil have grown
ever more blurred, and the
cacophony of arguments and
doubts has made it more
difficult to hear the voice of
God.
Below, Addis Ababa
greeted us with scattered,
frozen lights: a city under
curfew. As I stepped off the
plane, I was met by an aston-
ishing sight: A human river
in white flowed toward the
aircraft. I stood paralyzed as
the vast crowd streamed
through the darkness. They
moved calmly, unhurriedly.

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