“Next Year in Jerusalem” – Documentary Film

— By Anat Kuznetzov-Zalmanson

During the Cold War the Iron Curtain was shut, leaving the people of the USSR hidden and isolated from the world. Many wanted to escape from this isolation but their rights and liberty had been taken away. The feature documentary “Next Year In Jerusalem” tells the story of a group of 15 Soviet civilians, mostly Jewish, who in 1970 had the courage to stand up and fight for their freedom. They plotted to charter a plane, throw out the pilots before takeoff, and fly it to Sweden, knowing they faced a huge risk of being captured or shot down. They proceeded in the hopes that this action would give them a platform to inform the world of the conditions behind the Iron Curtain. They were arrested near Leningrad, imprisoned in Siberian work camps and two of them where sentenced to death. However, their message got out and as a direct result of their bravery, world pressure forced the USSR to open its curtain and throughout the 1970’s 163,000 Jews were liberated from the USSR. It started with the action of a few, the few became many, and the echoes of their bravery have reverberated through history. This documentary, directed by the daughter of the group’s leaders, will tell the whole story for the first time.

More after the jump.

This documentary contains interviews with most of the remaining members of the 16 freedom fighters, but focuses mainly on Sylva Zalmanson who was the face of the revolution, and Eduard Kuznetzov, who was the leader of the group and Sylva’s husband at the time.

“Next Year In Jerusalem” tells the courageous story of an ordinary woman who became the face of a revolution. Sylva Zalmanson was raised in Riga, Latvia during the height of Communism. Sylva remembers the atmosphere in Riga and most of the USSR, “was that of fear, lies and hypocrisy. We wanted to get rid of it and live in a free country and we envied everyone who was lucky enough to leave the place.” The words spoken at Passover, “Next Year in Jerusalem,” were written on Sylva’s heart from a young age. She was the only woman tried at the Leningrad trials of 1970, and was the first to take the stand. When the prosecutors tried to bribe her with a reduced sentence in return for a pleas of Amnesty she responded by saying “If you would not deny us our right to leave Russia, this group wouldn’t exist. We would just leave to Israel with no desire of hijacking a plane or any other thing that’s illegal. Even here, on trial, I still believe I’ll make it someday to Israel. I feel I’m the Jewish people’s heiress so I’ll quote our saying “Next Year In Jerusalem” and “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, may my right hand forget her skill.”

Author Chat: Israel Among the Nations

— by Hannah Lee

It’s the best of times for Israel and the worst of times, says Jonathan Adelman, in a presentation exploring Israel’s new relationships with former enemies and their implications for Israeli foreign policy. Professor Adelman is affiliated with the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver and the author or editor of 10 books on international affairs.  He has been sent by the U.S. State Department on 14 international speaking tours to a dozen countries, including England, Germany, Spain, Russia, China, India and Japan.  He spoke on behalf of Israel Bonds at Lower Merion Synagogue earlier in October.

More after the jump.
Israel’s challenges for defense, compared to the United States, is its lack of strategic depth — it has only three major cities: Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Haifa — and a population density in which 92% of Israelis live on 3400 square miles.  (The Negev in the south has 58% of the land mass, but only 8% of the population live there.)

It’s the best of times because Israel enjoys a robust economy, with the highest average living standards in the Middle East and a per capita income in 2000 that exceeded that of the United Kingdom. On a per capita basis, Israel has the largest number of biotech start-ups and it ranks  second in the world for venture capital funds after the United States.

It’s also the worst of times, with a destabilized Middle East and the greatest existential threat to the world in the last 100 years with the prospect of nuclear capability in Iran. (The estimates for their possession of an atomic bomb range from only 3 months to a year.) It is a nation of almost 6 million  Jews surrounded by 27 million Arabs. However, he’s no Biblical Jeremiah  preaching doom. He sees hope in Israel’s relationships with the former Soviet Union, India, and China.

As a Soviet scholar, Adelman ironically sees Russia as the preferred enemy to Iran, because the Russians are pragmatists, not ideologues, and he thinks that the KGB in effect protected the world from over 40,000 nuclear weapons.  

India is Israel’s new friend: it recognized the state of Israel in 1992 and in January of this year, it signed a free-trade agreement that’s worth $15 billion a year. There is military cooperation and an understanding of the threat of Islamic fundamentalism from its neighbor, Pakistan.

Russia is another surprising ally, where a recent American Jewish Committee poll found more Russians in favor of Israel than from anywhere else, even though two-thirds of these same people would not vote for a Jewish leader for their own country.  Why the new warmth?  Israel was founded on the mold of Russian socialism; 60% of its citizens are from the former Soviet Union*; and it has lost everything else in the Middle East, including Syria. They acknowledge that Mossad and Tzahal, the Israeli Defense Forces, are the best intelligence and military outfits in the world.

Learning from the Chinese who’d successfully harnessed the earning power of its overseas Chinese in its rapid transition from communism to capitalism, the Russians have invited Israelis to manage their own Silicon Valley, Skolkovo.

China is another wary new friend with Israeli consulates in Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou.

Relations with Japan are okay, but Israel cannot rely on Japan, with its dependence on Persian Gulf oil, a weak military, and a surprising recent history of anti-Semitism (as documented in the number of anti-Zionist books landing on their bestselling lists).

I did not attend Professor Adelman’s second presentation on “The Middle East and the New World Order,” about why the Middle East (except for Israel and Turkey) seemed unaffected by global social transformation — and if the future may be different.

Note: Wikipedia reports that according to Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics, in 2008, of Israel’s 7.3 million people, 75.6 percent were Jews of any background.[1] Among them, 70.3 percent were Sabras (Israeli-born), mostly second- or third-generation Israelis, and the rest are olim (Jewish immigrants to Israel) – 20.5 percent from Europe and the Americas, and 9.2 percent from Asia and Africa, including the Arab countries.