NEW YORK (Oct. 7)
Luis Alberto Monge, former President of Costa Rica, Per Ahlmark, former Deputy Prime Minister of Sweden, and Rabbi Eliahu Essas, a Soviet refusenik now living in Israel, are the co-recipients of the 1986 $100,000 Defender of Jerusalem Award, it was announced Tuesday by Eryk Spektor, chairman of the Jabotinsky Foundation, sponsor of the prize.
Spektor told a news conference that the three men received the award “for their extraordinary actions in standing up in defense of the rights of the Jewish people, the sole criterion for the award.”
When Luis Alberto Monge became President of Costa Rica in 1982, one of his first actions was to transfer the Costa Rican Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv back to Jerusalem.
“For President Monge,” Spektor said, “the intense pressures from other countries and international bodies to keep the Embassy in Tel Aviv were outweighed by his recognition and valiant support of the historic justice of the right of the Jewish State to determine that its capital is where the heart and soul of the Jewish people have been for thousands of years.”
Per Ahlmark has been the Deputy President of the Swedish-Israeli Friendship League since 1970. He served as member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg from 1971 to 1976 and then as Rapporteur on Soviet Jewry.
After the publication of his reports on Soviet and Syrian Jewry, he actively influenced public opinion in order to put pressure on the international community, especially in the Soviet Union and Syria. In 1983, he founded the Swedish Committee Against Anti-Semitism, the first body of its kind in Sweden. He was also one of the masterminds behind the famous Oslo Declaration Against Anti-Semitism, published in 1983.
Eliahu Essas, a mathematician and physicist, applied in 1973 to leave the Soviet Union with his wife and family. Their application was refused, and he was dismissed from his university position. Originally not involved in the Soviet Jewish community, he increasingly immersed himself in the Jewish culture and emigration movements, and under extremely difficult conditions, became an ordained rabbi. He became a fearless advocate of the right of Soviet Jews to learn Hebrew and Jewish history.