Opinion | A Refusenik in a Country at War

Opinion | A Refusenik in a Country at War


‘Avital! Avital! Avital!” Natan Sharansky calls out his wife’s name in quick and anxious succession, the last time in a loud bellow. Minutes into our interview by Zoom from his house in Jerusalem, he’s worried his grandchildren haven’t had lunch. “Because of the war, everybody is crazy,” he says. “My son-in-law is in the war, so all the grandkids are here”—eight in total, ranging in age from 1 to 13, the children of his daughters, Hannah and Rachel. “It’s a good time to fuel yourself on family love.”

An Israeli politician and human-rights advocate, Mr. Sharansky was once the best-known refusenik—a name for Soviet Jews who were denied permission to emigrate to Israel. In February 1986, he became “the first political prisoner released by Mikhail Gorbachev.” He served as a cabinet minister in every Israeli government from 1996 to 2005, including a stint as Ariel Sharon’s deputy prime minister from 2001 to 2003.

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