Nudel not caught up in past struggles

Ida Nudel, a former Russian refusenik sits in her Rehovot apartment June 24, 2007.  (Brian Hendler)

Ida Nudel, a former Russian refusenik sits in her Rehovot apartment June 24, 2007. (Brian Hendler)

TEL AVIV (JTA) – Boxes brimming with files, binders and newspaper clippings cover the small, sunny living-room floor in Rehovot. In the office are more bulging files.

It’s all material for the next book by Ida Nudel, in which one of the most famous faces of the Soviet Jewry struggle plans to trace the solidarity movement.

“It’s about how Jews succeeded in winning this war,” says the petite Nudel, 76, her hair cropped in a silver bob, her dark eyes fired with the same intensity that drove her to battle the Soviet regime.

Nadel survived a murder plot by the KGB and four years of exile in Siberia before finally being allowed to immigrate to Israel in 1987.

Despite the work on her book and its focus on the past, Nadel says she prefers to concentrate on the present.

“I’m not a person of the past,” she says, leaning over a glass of cool water. “I live in the present, that is my character.”

Nadel pushes forward a single-spaced, two-page document she has prepared outlining her grievances toward Israel, a state she fought so hard to live in but which she says has disappointed her greatly.

“I have lived in Israel for almost 20 years, and as time goes by I feel more and more cheated,” she wrote beneath a title highlighted in bold: “I Believe a Man Must Not be Afraid of Facing the Truth.”

Nadel admits being a bit wistful, saying the fiercely ideological and Jewish state she imagined was well into an age of globalization and even-post Zionism by the time she walked down the steps of her much dreamed-of flight from Moscow to Tel Aviv.

“I cry in my heart because what we dreamed of is not happening,” she says.

“Solidarity won, but what have we won? To go towards creating a Muslim country? We are quietly giving up piece after piece of land,” says Nudel, who is known for her hawkish views.

She warns of a culture war between the West and Islam, and accuses Israelis of burying their heads in the sand.

Nudel worries that Israel is losing a sense of its distinct nature as a Jewish state. “It’s becoming a global village and the victims are small nations,” she says.

Nudel says this is hard for her to accept as one who grew up knowing she was different for being a Jzidovka, a Jew – an identity for which she paid a steep price.

Among her many grievances, she says, is that Jews from the former Soviet Union were not accepted by Israeli society with open arms.

“It was an emotional blow,” she says. “The Israeli bureaucracy did not accept us.”

Not long after her arrival, she began running an organization called Mother to Mother that sought to bring at-risk Russian-speaking immigrant children into afterschool programs. Many came from single-parent families who struggled economically.

The program has shrunk over the years but still operates with the help of foreign donations.

Nudel takes great pride in the program and hopes it will be her contribution to Israel, the country she sees as both her home and her heartache.

NEXT STORY