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On December 2, 1969, the students assembled a mass rally in Kings of Israel Square (today, Rabin Square), which gathered 25 thousand youths – students, members of youth movements and high school students from every corner of the country. On the stage sat the leaders of the Union of Students, Yasha Kazakov and Dov Schperling, "fresh" Olim from the Soviet Union and... Golda Meir. Yona Yahav told the tens of thousands gathered about the activities of the Union of Students: "The demonstration is an expression of fear for the situation of the Soviet Jews. Their suffering was known to us, but where once we chose to remain silent, now we are sworn to undermine the indifference to their plight and we shall not be deterred by any action." Prime Minister Golda Meir announced her commitment to act for the release of the Soviet Jews and persuade them to make Aliya.
From here on the efforts intensified – in Israel and the world – for the Soviet Jews.
The Plane that Wasn't Hijacked
On June 15, 1970, 16 Refuseniks attempted to hijack an empty civilian plane and take off with it from the airport near Leningrad to Israel. The conceivers of this idea were the pilot Mark Dymshits and the journalist Eduard Kuznetsov, who sought for years to make Aliya and were refused. The two were joined by nine men and five women, including a 15-year-old girl. Members of the Soviet secret police knew in advance about the plans to hijack the plane and arrested everyone before they managed to take off. The group was brought to widely publicized trials in the Soviet Union and which became show trials. Mark Dymshits and Eduard Kuznetsov were sentenced to death and the large Soviet crowd that was present in the courtroom reacted to the sentence with a thunderous ovation. The other "hijackers" were sentenced to prison terms of between 8 to 15 years.
"The First Leningrad Trial" led to the trial of 39 other Zionist activists, some of whom knew in advance of the intention to hijack the plane. All the trials infuriated the enlightened world and the death penalty imposed upon the two main defendants – for an act they eventually did not commit – spawned public storms in Israel, Europe and in several American countries. Former Prisoners of Zion who made Aliya in the Sixties began hunger strikes near the Western Wall and demanded that the sentences be commuted. The Chief of Staff Haim Bar-Lev and several of the generals of the General Staff came to Jerusalem to show their solidarity. Dozens of other personages and thousands of common citizens, old and young, families and teenagers from all over Israel came to encourage them.
It seems that the pressures had an impact. On December 29, 1970, the Soviet Supreme Court converted the death sentences to 15 years imprisonment and eased the sentences of the other defendants. Despite this, the protest did not cease but actually intensified. Minister Yisrael Galili declared that "the struggle for the Soviet Jews is not a struggle of compassion, but rather a discovery of comradeship that has within it Jewish and all-human content." The member of the Agency Executive Mordechai Bar-On called for "granting Israeli citizenship to all the Leningrad

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