TEL AVIV (Feb. 10)
Investigations into the background of two of seven Soviet Jewish immigrants who returned to the Soviet Union and condemned Israel at an officially staged press conference in Moscow last Friday indicated strongly that one of them may have been a “plant” and the other a chronic malcontent.
The case of Boris Bravstein, who came to Israel in March, 1971 with his wife and mother, has aroused suspicion that he may have been part of an elaborate Soviet plot to discredit Israel in the eyes of other Soviet Jews seeking to emigrate. These suspicions stem from the fact that Bravstein’s absorption in Israel was smoother than for many other olim and that when he decided to return to the USSR after a year he was welcomed with open arms, while other yordim who sought re-entry were rejected.
Bravstein’s wife gave birth to a son shortly after their arrival in Israel, the first child to be born at an absorption center, and the occasion was one for a feast and festivities at the center.
The Bravsteins soon received a flat in Beersheba and his mother received a flat of her own. He also found a good job as an engineer at the Beersheba branch of the Housing Ministry. He seemed content with his life in Israel until a Kiev newspaper published an article signed by Bravstein in which he denounced Israel and its government.
In 1972, Bravstein returned to the Soviet Union, but unlike many other returnees who were forced to languish in a Vienna ghetto because the Soviet authorities refused to re-admit them, Bravstein received his re-entry visa without delay. He also got back his former flat that was apparently saved for him and was promptly given a job. His new job is at the ovir, the Soviet visa office, where he interviews Jews applying for visas to emigrate to Israel. The belief here is that Bravstein maintained contact with Soviet authorities while he was in Israel.
THE CASE OF KOVANT
The second case cited is that of Valeri Kovant, a Caucasian Jew who arrived in Israel in August 1972 and was settled in Upper Nazareth. At his request he was re-located in the Arad district of the Negev and got a job with the local authorities on the strength of his claim that he held degrees from Soviet universities. But Kovant refused to work. He sent his wife to work at a restaurant. She subsequently killed herself.
Kovant earned the reputation of a professional complainer and agitator. He participated in a demonstration near the Premier’s office in Jerusalem against alleged improper treatment of Soviet Jews in Israel. He returned to the USSR in September 1973.