Natan Sharansky will be sworn in as new Chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel at Jerusalem`s Inbal Hotel on Thursday afternoon, after he was unanimously elected by the organization's Board of Governors.
The world-famous prisoner of Zion and human rights activist, who also served as a minister, was nominated for the post by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, and will serve a term of four years.
Born in the Ukraine in 1948, Sharansky graduated from the Physical Technical Institute in Moscow with a degree in computer science, following which he became active in the human rights movement led by Andrei Sahkharov. At the same time he applied for an exit visa to Israel, which he was denied for "security reasons."
In 1977, a Soviet newspaper alleged that Mr. Sharansky was collaborating with the CIA. A court found Sharansky guilty and sentenced him to thirteen years in prison, including solitary confinement and hard labor.
After nine years of imprisonment and in the wake of intense international pressure, Sharansky was released on February 11, 1986, and arrived in Jerusalem on the same day.
The new oleh became active in the integration of Soviet Jews and formed the Zionist Forum, an umbrella organization of former Soviet activist groups dedicated to helping new Israelis and educating the public about absorption issues.
In 1994, he co-founded Peace Watch, an independent non-partisan group set to monitoring the compliance to agreements signed by Israel and the PLO. Sharansky also served as associate editor of The Jerusalem Report between 1990 and 1996.
Ten years after arriving in Israel, Sharansky founded the political party Yisrael B'Aliya to accelerate the absorption of the massive numbers of Russian immigrants into Israeli society. Between the years 1996-2005 he served as minister in all of the successive governments. In 2006, Sharansky resigned from the Knesset and assumed the position of Chairman of the newly established Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem.
Sharansky was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 1986 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2006.
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