Author: Ravid Gor, May 10, 2017
Translated by Eugenia
May 10 of 2010 was the day when the first in the chain of events occurred that led me to the decision to forever link my life with Russia.
That was when the most popular radio host in Israel, Nava Kohen, declared to the whole country at 8 am via the state radio station Radio Israel, talking about the parade marking the 65th anniversary of the victory over fascism at the Red Square:
“We know full well that Medvedev’s attempt to re-write history by inviting the Allies to the parade is doomed to failure. We know who contributed most to the defeat of Nazi Germany. That was not Russia.”
I began to understand something back then, but I had yet to appreciate the full scale of the anti-Russian campaign in the world.
The next warning came on May 2, 2014, when many of those I considered friends in Israel started joking about “the smell of burnt “vata” (“vata” – Russian for “cotton” – derogatory name for people in the south-east of Ukraine whose native language is Russian and who consider themselves belonging to the Russian cultural sphere; in this case, the reference is to the events of May 2nd of 2014 in Odessa when 48 such people were burned alive in the Trade-Union Building – translator’s note). That was the first time I felt foreign in my own country. I learned new unexpected things about former compatriots now living in Israel who were born in the USSR and speak Russian.
That same summer, I learned from conversations with various people that the events in Ukraine were well known to the Israeli Foreign Ministry, that its representatives in May of 2014 visited the front lines near Kramatorsk and Odessa that still smelled of burning. They sent reports to everyone who wanted to know, but one could not hope that inhumane actions of new powers in Kiev would be condemned.
The third key date for me was January 8 of 2016. It was my second interrogation in the counter-intelligence division of Shabak (the Israel Security Agency, also known as Shin Bet – translator’s note) on the 32nd floor of a high-rise opposite the General Staff in Tel Aviv. There was a secret elevator, access from the other building. There was an empty room with a table, two chairs, computer, and a telephone. There were 6 hours of conversation-interrogation with no emotional pressure, but I heard words that changed my consciousness forever.
A middle-aged severe-looking special services investigator said something that changed a lot of things for me: “Ukraine is not a hostile power for Israel. In contrast, Russia is a hostile to Israel power, and our job is to counter Russian actions in Israel. You act as a Kremlin agent of influence, and that is why you are here.”
The last key event that changed my life happened exactly one year ago. On May 10, 2016, I was sitting in a Shabak interrogation room, plastered all over with the sensors of lie detector. Four days before that, I asked a Russian Knesset deputy during a personal meeting whether she wants to comment on the threats against the organizer of Immortal Regiment in Israel. This deputy, who just came from the Immortal Regiment demo in Haifa, where she was shown at the head of the column by Russian TV, responded that she does not know anything about the Immortal Regiment. Next day I got a phone call from an undisclosed number and was summoned for an interrogation.
Closer to the end of that hard day of May 10th, the interrogator said in passable Russian: “You are Russian, and you will always remain Russian first, Israeli second. Therefore, from our prospective, you are a potential traitor. You will always be potential traitor. Now confess, when were you recruited.”
By that time I knew at least ten names of former officers and commanders of Israel Defense Force (IDF) who trained the Ukrainian National Guard and volunteer battalions killing Russians in Donbass. Without any fear of Israeli special services, they gave interviews to Israeli and Ukrainian media, were socially active in Israel, and often flew between Kiev and Jerusalem. I have never heard about them being interrogated even once or persecuted in any way, despite the fact that this kind of activity is a criminal offence in Israel.
Knowing that, and having heard the words that the interrogator said to me… All this after living in Israel for 19 years, after serving in the IDF during Intifada, after three years of being a state servant, after burying three friends killed in combat, after 12 years of serving in the reserve without reproach, after many years of voluntary mission to create positive image of Israel among Russians that I undertook out of patriotism.
It is hard to find words to describe how I felt. I would no longer have a chance for a prestigious job with such a mark in my dossier and would have to live under constant surveillance. Add to that strange behavior of my smartphone and computer, constant fear and the need to pay exorbitant fees to the lawyer. This was my reward for the 19 years of love for my new homeland.
Finally, I have come to understand my place in life and made the only possible decision, which turned out to be correct: to do everything possible to get Russian citizenship, come back to the homeland newly acquired upon the return of Crimea to Russia, and link my destiny with it.
As soon as I made that decision, everything started working out for me. As if I stopped swimming against the current, stopped fighting my destiny.
Having moved to Russia, I met lots of people who share my values, with whom I speak the same language. There were always few of those in Israel. I stuck to values instilled in me by my parents, by Soviet books, by the Soviet school and Soviet TV. Neither the life in post-Soviet Ukraine, nor the life in capitalist Israel erased these values. As I found out, there are many people like me in Russia – so far. It is happiness to live where many people think like you, value what you value, see good and bad like you do. Many, too many, people do not understand this simple thing.
Exactly one year ago I was deeply unhappy and was preparing for a dismal life. When yesterday I was looking at the fireworks to mark the anniversary of the Victory Day in a crown of celebrating people, I felt one with the Russian people and the whole country.
I was happy.
I wish all emigrants who do not feel comfortable where they are, to experience what I experienced yesterday.