Yuli-Yoel Edelstein

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Yuli-Yoel Edelstein
Yuli Edelstein.jpg
Date of birth (1958-08-05) 5 August 1958 (age 65)
Place of birth Chernivtsi, Soviet Union
Year of aliyah 1987
Knessets 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20
Faction represented in Knesset
1996–2003 Yisrael BaAliyah
2003–2006 Likud
2007– Likud
Ministerial roles
1996–1999 Minister of Immigrant Absorption
2009–2013 Minister of Information & Diaspora
Other roles
2013– Speaker of the Knesset

Yuli-Yoel Edelstein (Hebrew: יולי-יואל אדלשטיין‎, Russian: Ю́лий Ю́рьевич Эдельште́йн, Ukrainian: Ю́лий Ю́рійович Едельште́йн, born 5 August 1958) is an Israeli politician who has been Speaker of the Knesset since 2013.


Yuli Edelstein was born in Chernivtsi in the Soviet Union (now Ukraine) to a Jewish family. His mother, Anita Edelstein was Jewish, while his father, Yuri Edelstein, is the son of a Jewish father and Christian mother. Both converted to Christianity, and Yuri is now a Russian Orthodox priest in Moscow named Father Georgy.[1][2] While his parents taught at universities in the countryside, Edelstein was raised by his maternal grandparents. His grandfather had taught himself Hebrew at the age of 70 and used to listen to the Voice of Israel on a shortwave radio. When Edelstein's grandfather died, Yuli began to study Hebrew and read books such as Exodus by Leon Uris, which inspired him.[3]

In 1977, during his second year of university, Edelstein applied for an exit visa to immigrate to Israel. Turned down, he began to associate with a small group of Hebrew teachers who held classes in their apartments.[3]

In 1979, he was expelled from the university and suffered harassment by the KGB and local police. During this time, he found odd jobs as a street cleaner, security guard, and more.[3]

In 1984, he and other Hebrew teachers were arrested on fabricated charges, Edelstein himself being charged with possession of drugs,[4][5][6][7][8][9] and sentenced to three years. He was then sent to Siberian gulags and did hard labor, first in Buryatia and then in Novosibirsk. He broke several bones after falling from a construction tower. He was due to be transferred back to Buryatia, but his wife, Tanya, threatened to go on hunger strike if he was returned there.[10]

Edelstein was released in May 1987,[10] on the eve of Israeli Independence Day, the next to last of the refuseniks to be freed.[3]

He did his national service in the Israel Defense Forces, attaining the rank of Corporal.

Political career

Initially a member of the National Religious Party and a vice-president of Zionist Forum, Edelstein founded the Yisrael BaAliyah party together with fellow Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky. He was elected to the Knesset in 1996, and was appointed Minister of Immigrant Absorption in Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud-led government.[3] He was re-elected in 1999, and was appointed Deputy Immigrant Absorption Minister by Ariel Sharon in 2001.

He retained his seat in the 2003 elections, shortly after which Yisrael BaAliyah merged into Likud. Although Edelstein lost his seat in the 2006 elections, in which Likud was reduced to 12 seats (Edelstein was 14th on the party's list), he re-entered the Knesset as a replacement for Dan Naveh in February 2007. He retained his seat in the 2009 elections after being placed twelfth on the party's list, and was appointed Minister of Information and Diaspora in the Netanyahu government.[11]

Following the 2013 elections, he became Speaker of the Knesset.[12]


In December 2014, in an interview with The Jerusalem Post, Edelstein warned world leaders against creating a Palestinian state that he thought would go to war with Israel.[13]

In the same interview, Edelstein stated that he believes in Israeli-Palestinian coexistence. In 2014, he was one of several Members of the Knesset (MK) who submitted complaints against Arab-Israeli Haneen Zoabi for supporting Hamas, which led to her six-month suspension. “I have been in the Knesset for almost 19 years,” Edelstein said. “I remember Arab MKs joining me at the March of the Living and proposing social-oriented legislation with me. That is definitely not Zoabi. I believe in coexistence and fighting against those who harm it and I think that Zoabi’s words and actions hurt coexistence. People hear her and think all Arabs must hate us and want to kill us. That is unhealthy, and we have to put an end to it.”

Personal life

Edelstein resides in Herzelia. He was married to Tatiana, or Tanya Edelstein, who was a Zionist activist, for 33 years. They met in the Soviet Union when she attended a Hebrew class he was teaching. After immigrating to Israel, she worked as a civil engineer at the Civil Aviation Authority. Tanya and Yuli Edelstein had two children together. In 2014, Tanya died of a serious illness at the age of 63.[14]

See also


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  4. Encyclopaedia Judaica Year Book. 1986. p.366
  5. "When They Come for Us, We'll Be Gone: The Epic Struggle to Save Soviet Jewry". By Gal Beckerman. Chapter 12
  6. Philip Spiegel. "Triumph over tyranny: the heroic campaigns that saved 2,000,000 Soviet Jews". p. 157
  7. Maxim Shrayer. Leaving Russia: A Jewish Story. p.158
  8. The Listener. Volume 113. p.43. British Broadcasting Corporation, 1985.
  9. The Prosecution of Demonstrators Outside the Soviet Embassy: Hearing Before the Subcommittee on Administrative Practice and Procedure of the Committee on the Judiciary, United States Senate, Ninety-ninth Congress, Second Session, on Citizens Exercising Their Constitutionally Protected Rights, Protesting the Brutal Treating of Human Beings in Faraway Lands, May 15, 1986. p.30
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External links

Political offices
Preceded by Speaker of the Knesset