How the game of chess saved Natan Sharansky’s life

by Leah Rosenberg

Natan Sharansky, born in Russia, suffered under soviet rule, spent nine years in a soviet prison. He is an Israeli politician, human rights activist and founder of the Jewish Agency of Israel.

Natan Sharansky was born in 1948 in the Soviet Union. He learned to play chess as a young child, his mother taught him that in chess you have the freedom to think. He played many games, even blindfolded and won the championship in his home town.

In 1977, Sharansky was arrested, on multiple charges, including high treason. The Soviets thought Sharansky to be a spy to the Americans. He spent 9 years in various prisons. He said that although the Soviets tried to break him mentally, he did not break, he played many chess games in his head and he always won. With pressure from Ronald Reagan and a campaign led by his wife, Avital Sharansky, Natan was freed in February 1986.

Sharansky went into politics in 1995 and spent years in the Knesset, the Israeli Parliament. Sharansky together with Yoel Edelstein started a party called Yisrael Ba’aliyah, which later joined together with the Likkud Party. Sharansky, in November 2006 resigned from politics.

The Jewish Agency for Israel, which has had a few name changes has been around since the early 1900s. Natan Sharansky was the Chairman of the Agency from 2009 – 2018. Sharansky shared the views of the Agency, to bring Jewish people to the land of Israel. The agency is best known to helping absorb Jews into the land of Israel, since 1948 it has brought to Israel, over 3 million immigrants.

Sharansky shares the views of the Agency, he saw all over the world that Israel was being bashed and hurt. He felt he had to put a stop to this and created, with the help of the Jewish Agency the Shlichim (messengers) Program. Where young advocates for Israel would be sent to different Universities, around the world to help speak out for Israel.

With the help of these messengers, people all over the world would begin to understand about Israel. They would stop protesting to boycott Israeli goods, they would not protest to free Palestine but would help speak out for peace in the region.

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