Confessions of a Former Russian Immigrant Living in Israel

Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard

16/05/2017 (by Ravid Gor)

On May 10th, 2010, the first event took place in a chain of events that led me to the decision to forever bind my life to Russia.

It happened when the most popular radio host of Israel, Nava Cohen, spoke to the entire country at 8am on the State radio channel Voice of Israel, discussing the parade in honor of the 65th anniversary of the victory over fascism on Red Square:

“We do perfectly know that Medvedev’s attempts to rewrite history, inviting to a parade the representatives of country-allies, are doomed to failure. We do know who in reality brought the biggest contribution to the victory over nazi Germany. And it wasn’t Russia”.

Already then I started to understand something, but still hadn’t yet seen the scale of that campaign that unfolded against Russia in the world.

The next alarm bell sounded on May 2nd, 2014, when many of those who in Israel I called friends, started sharply joking about “the smell of burnt vatnik”. I felt for the first time like a stranger in my country. I learnt about the new, unexpected for myself side of my former compatriots who were born in the USSR and were living in Israel, talking in Russian.

Also in the same summer I learned from talking to different people that the events in Ukraine are very well known to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, that the representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Israel in May, 2014, visited also the near-front line in Kramatorsk, and Odessa, where the smell of cinder still hasn’t subsided. Reports were received by everyone who wanted to know something, but it wasn’t necessary at all to hope for condemnation of the cannibalistic actions of the new authorities in Kiev.

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The third key date for me — January 8th, 2016. It was the second interrogation in the department of counterintelligence of the service Shin Bet on the 32nd floor of a skyscraper opposite the General Staff in Tel Aviv. A secret elevator, accessed from another building. An empty room with a table, two chairs, a computer, and a phone. 6 hours of conversational interrogation didn’t contain any heat, but words were sounded that shifted something in my consciousness forever.

The elderly, severe investigator of the intelligence services told me the words that changed a lot of things for me: “Ukraine isn’t a hostile State for Israel. And Russia is an enemy State to Israel, and our task is to counter the actions of Russia in Israel. You act as an agent of influence of the Kremlin, that’s why you are here”.

The last key moment that turned my life upside down occurred exactly a year ago. On May 10th, 2016, I was sat in the interrogation room of Shin Bet, plastered with lie detector sensors. 4 days before this I dared to ask a question to the Russian Deputy of the Knesset at a private meeting — does she wish to comment on the threats to the lives and to the health of the Immortal Regiment’s organizers in Israel. The Deputy, who just arrived from the Immortal Regiment procession in Haifa, where she was filmed by the cameras of Russian TV at the head of the column, answered that she doesn’t know anything about any Immortal Regiment. Next day a call came from an undeterminable number, and I was summoned for interrogation.

Towards the end of that difficult day on May 10th, another investigator told me in quite good Russian: “You are Russian, and you will always be first of all Russian, and only then an Israeli one. That’s why you, in our eyes, are a potential traitor. And you always will be. Now confess when you were recruited.”

By that moment I already knew about ten names of former officers and commanders of the Israel Defense Forces, who trained the National Guard of Ukraine, voluntary battalions, who kill Russians in Donbass. They, without being afraid of prosecution by the intelligence services of Israel, gave interview to the Israeli and Ukrainian press, conducted intense public work in Israel and often flew between Kiev and Jerusalem. And I didn’t know about a single fact of their summoning for interrogation or about some prosecution, despite a direct criminal ban on such activity.

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Knowing about such things and also to hear during interogation those words that were spoken in my direction by the investigator… And this, after 19 years of life in the country, after service in military units during the days of the Intifada, after three years of work as a civil servant, after I buried three friends who were killed in battle after 12 years of faultless service in the reserve, after many years of voluntary missions in the work on a positive image of Israel in the opinion of Russians, that I assumed because of a feeling of patriotism.

It is difficult to find the words to describe how I felt. No more opportunities to get a prestigious job with a mark on my personal record and life under constant surveillance. The strange behavior of the smartphone and computer, constant fear and need of payment of absolutely wild fees to lawyers. Here is what awaited me in response to 19 years of love to the new Motherland.

And, at last, the understanding of my place in life ripened, this unique decision was taken that appeared to be correct: to do everything possible to become a citizen of Russia, to move to the newly-found with the return of Crimea Motherland, and to bind my fate to it.

And as soon as I made this decision, everything for me began to turn out good. As if I, at last, ceased to flounder against the current, to fight with the destiny foreordained to me.

Having moved to live in Russia, I met a huge number of people who share with me the same values, with who I can find a common language. In Israel such people in my environment were few and far between. It is because I stuck to those values that were instilled in me in the totalitarian Soviet childhood by my parents, by Soviet books, by Soviet school, and by Soviet TV. Neither life in Post-Soviet Ukraine, nor life in capitalist Israel couldn’t erase them in me. And in Russia, as I discovered, there are a lot of such people — for now. And this is a great happiness — to live where many people think like you, appreciate the same things like you do, see the bad and good like you do. Many, very many, don’t understand this simple truth.

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Exactly a year ago I was deeply unfortunate and broken, and prepared for a deplorable existence. When yesterday I watched the fireworks in honor of Victory Day, when I was in a crowd of exulting people, I felt feelings of unification with all Russian people and with all the country.

I was happy.

I wish to all emigrants who don’t feel themselves where they currently are to feel the same as I did yesterday.

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