Thirty-three years ago, Soviet dissident Yuli Edelstein was arrested by the KGB and sent to the gulag for committing the “crime” of being a religious Jew and a Hebrew teacher. Last week, Edlestein, now the speaker of the Israeli Knesset, addressed the Russian parliament in Hebrew.
It was a memorable reminder of the free world’s victory over Communism. And its timing was apt. Edelstein took the Israeli press on a brief tour of his life as a refusenik, and eventually we found ourselves in the courtroom in which Edelstein was convicted and sentenced.
I couldn’t help but notice the important lessons Edelstein’s story holds for those trying to make sense of another totalitarian prisoner whose fate was much more tragic: Otto Warmbier, the American man sentenced in North Korea in 2016 to 15 years of hard labor under the pretense that he stole a poster. He was released while in a coma last month, and died days after reaching the United States. Continue reading