Avital Sharansky with Senator Bob Dole (Center for Jewish History/Wikipedia) (Center for Jewish History/Wikipedia)
Avital Sharansky with Senator Bob Dole

Avital Sharansky is the wife of former ‘refusenik’ and Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky. This incredible lady escaped the Soviet Union and mounted a decade-long crusade to free her husband and allow the Jewish people of Russia to emigrate to Israel.

In 1972 a young couple met and were married much like any other. The Sharansky family, however, happened to live in Soviet Russia under a regime that was oppressive to Jews and many other forms of religious observance. The Soviet Union adopted rigid prohibitions on the Jewish population which forbade them from emigrating to Israel.

Avital Sharansky was granted a visa to emigrate and moved to Israel in 1974. Her husband, a vocal human rights critic of the Kremlin, was refused permission. He was jailed and tortured in a Soviet gulag. Avital spent the next 13 years fostering a global movement to free her husband and other Jews trapped in the Soviet Union.

In 1986, then-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev ceded to international pressure and released Natan Sharansky.

Minister of Education Naftali Bennett announced Sunday that Sharansky is the 2018 Israel Prize winner for Aliyah (Jewish immigration to Israel) and Diaspora work. The Sharanskys’ story “is the story of Israel,” Bennett stated.

Watch Avital’s amazing story!