Soviets Still Slow with Visas, Says Edelshtein in Israel

Former refusenik Yuri Edelshtein said on his arrival in Israel Sunday night that while some Jews are getting exit visas to leave the Soviet Union, “even more” are not.

Edelshtein, 29, who spent nearly three years in a Siberian labor camp, landed at Ben Gurion Airport with his wife Tatyana and her 12-year-old daughter Yulia. They received an emotional reception from a large crowd of welcomers, mainly Orthodox Jews. The various groups in Israel working on behalf of Soviet Jews have been virtually taken over by religious activists in recent months.

Edelshtein, speaking fluent Hebrew and English, told an airport press conference: “What I want to ask is not to forget my friends who are still in the USSR. I want, as quickly as possible, to be greeting other Jews arriving here from the Soviet Union.”

He said despite his delight at being in Israel, he was sad to have left behind “many who are perhaps more worthy than I to be here.”

“What I want to stress is that there are even more people not getting permission” (to leave) he explained, “those prisoners of Zion who are longtime refuseniks, and new applicants — a lot of people are still staying there and so we may be joyful that some families are coming. But we mustn’t forget that there are still a lot” who are still waiting.

Edelshtein first applied for an exit visa in 1978. His persistence and the fact that he taught Hebrew clandestinely got him a three-year sentence to a Siberian labor camp in 1984 on drug charges.

He was released last May, four months before his official term expired.

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