Prisoner of Zion

Anatoly Sharansky, one of the most prominent prisoners of Zion, meeting then-Prime Minister Shimon Peres after his release from the Soviet Union
Prisoner of Zion Herut Takala receiving a certificate, at a ceremony honoring the memory of those who perished in the Ethiopian Jewry on their way to Israel, for their underground activity in support of the Aliyah project. Netanya 2017

A prisoner of Zion is a Jew who was imprisoned or deported for Zionist activity in a country where such activity was prohibited. The phrase is taken from words of Rabbi Judah Halevi: "Oh Zion, will you not ask after the welfare of your prisoners."

Most of the prisoners of Zion were imprisoned for their activities in the Communist bloc countries and in the former Soviet Union (and were also known for being refuseniks). In addition to the Soviet Union, Jews from other Communist countries, such as East Germany and Romania, engaged in similar struggles and were also imprisoned. The term "prisoners of Zion" was extended over the years, and was also used to describe Jewish prisoners in dictatorships unrelated to the Soviet Union, who were arrested for pro-Israel activity or an attempt to encourage Jewish immigration to Israel. This name was given to Jews in Iraq, Morocco, Yemen and Ethiopia who were arrested for Zionist activities and activities to bring Jews to Israel, especially in the 1940s and 1950s.

In 1992, the Compensation Law for Prisoners of Zion and their families came into force in Israel. According to this law, prisoners of Zion living in Israel, or their relatives, are entitled to various benefits from the State of Israel.

The current Speaker of the Knesset, Yuli Edelstein, and the former Chairman of the Executive of the Jewish Agency, Nathan Sharansky, were both prisoners of Zion in the Soviet Union.

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