During the next two years, many of additional families received exit visas, and between the years 1970-1972, most of the Chassidim left the Soviet Union.

In Av 5731/1971, I also received my long-awaited exit visa. Like everyone else, I didn’t wish to tarry in Samarkand and wanted to travel to Moscow where we had to spend a few days to arrange the final papers before the trip. However, my wife was pregnant and she didn’t feel well so I was forced to wait several days while she was in the hospital. As soon as she was discharged, we left Samarkand without delay.

When we arrived in Moscow, we heard that the government was allowing every adult who left Russia to take a Torah scroll with him. We had heard that in the big shul in Moscow they had thousands of Torah scrolls from all of the shuls throughout Russia that had been closed by the government. At that time, we didn’t believe there would come a time when Judaism would ever flourish in Russia, and we felt it imperative to redeem the Torahs. We were sure it was just a matter of time before they would all be sent to be used as leather, G‑d forbid.

I went to the main shul and spoke with thesuperintendent. He was suspicious of me and me of him, but since we were both interested in the deal, we had a mutual understanding. He led me to the second floor to a room that was about 10 meters wide and 30 meters long. All over the floor, to the height of a meter and a half, were Torah parchments without wooden handles. There were thousands of sifrei Torah and I didn’t know what to take, how to check them and how to even reach them. The gabbai urged me, “Nu, hurry, take off your shoes, go up and pick whatever you want.” On the spot I learned how to assess the quality of a sefer Torah. I quickly rolled it and handled every parchment section to see if the letters were there. Due to the passage of time and being exposed to moisture, letters had separated from the parchment and many sifrei Torah were invalid.

I took four with me and paid the superintendent for his time. Since the authorities allowed every adult to take out one scroll, I sewed two scrolls together, rolling it up as though it was one scroll. When we crossed the border, they asked me to unroll it so they could be sure I hadn’t hidden anything in it, but they did not catch on that it was two sifrei Torah.

I cannot describe how thrilled I was when we finally left Russia. My heart beat with profound joy and gratitude that I had lived to see that day. The tremendous burdens of daily life that were a constant pressure on our minds made way for great happiness.

I remembered what we used to say between ourselves that the word “Mitzrayim” (Egypt) has the same Hebrew numerical value as the initials S.S.S.R. (U.S.S.R. in the Russian language). I felt like I was literally experiencing a yetzias mitzrayim of my own.

The Jews who left Russia for Eretz Yisrael at that time traveled via a transit camp called Shinau, located in a suburb of Vienna. The camp was established by the Jewish Agency, and due to security measures, it was located far from the city.

After the plane landed in Vienna, I greatly desired to meet Jews from the West. I was certain that we would be received with a public reception at the airport, but to my disappointment, we were greeted by a grim-faced official who unceremoniously motioned to us to board the bus that would take us to the Shinau transit camp. I later learned that due to security reasons, the Agency had been instructed to lead us immediately to the bus without any fanfare.

In the Shinau camp as well we were prevented from associating with unfamiliar people. In addition to safety measures, the Agency had another reason as well: they didn’t want anyone to convince us to change our country of destination...

While in Shinau, we met a number of Lubavitcher families who had recently left Russia as well. Among others, they included the Kozliner, Boroshansky and Volovik families.

One of the officials asked us where in Eretz Yisrael we wanted to settle, and we said that we wanted to live in Kiryat Malachi.

“Do you know where Kiryat Malachi is situated?” the official inquired.

“No,” I responded. “But I heard that the Lubavitcher Rebbe established a community in that city and wants us to settle there.”

The official responded with a sharp remark, expressing his disbelief that we were willing to blindly follow the Rebbe’s directives. I didn’t bother debating the matter with him.

The members of the Agency provided the immigrants with $70 per person. When I was offered the amount, I declined and said that I had sufficient funds. (Before leaving Russia, I had exchanged my rubles for dollars, and being that we were allowed to bring with us $100 per person, I had $300 with me.) They looked at me as if I was mad. “This is the first time anyone has refused money from us!” they said.

I noticed a man at the camp with a knitted yarmulke, writing down the names of the Jewish immigrants and asking them questions about their parents, grandparents, etc. I found it strange that he was ignoring all of the Lubavitchers. I went over to him several times and asked him why he didn’t mark me and the other Lubavitchers down as well, but he said that it wasn’t for us.

I didn’t understand his response and continued asking questions until he said, “I am here because of your Rebbe!”

Later on I was told that he was a representative of the Ministry of Religious Affairs, and he was sent to the camp as a result of the Rebbe’s campaign concerning the mihu yehudi dilemma.

In the meantime, I had become friendly with a young man named Menachem, an Israeli from the Cherut party who studied medicine in Vienna and spent his vacations working in the Shinau camp. I enjoyed practicing my Hebrew conversing with him, and he was impressed with my grasp of the language.

It seemed to me that Menachem was a Shabak agent who was assigned to speak with the Russian immigrants. Apparently Menachem had passed on my name, and in the few days that I was there I was visited by various people, seemingly from the Shabak as well. They asked me about life in Russia and about the Jewish underground.

One day Menachem informed me that a prestigious man would be coming to speak with me that evening. The person was Isser Harel, who was serving at the time as a Knesset member of the Reshima Mamlachtit party. Menachem secretly told me that he was the man who was responsible for capturing the Nazi, Adolph Eichmann. We had a long talk about the Jewish underground in the Soviet Union.

People generally spent a day or two at Shinau arranging their documents and then left for Eretz Yisrael. However, the Jewish Agency had arranged for a group of two hundred wealthy individuals from the U.S. and Canada to visit Eretz Yisrael, and they were then on a stopover at the immigrant camp. Being that at that time many Jews—including many Lubavitchers—had left Russia, the Agency extended our stay in the camp for over a week in order to impress these wealthy people.

After a few days had passed, many immigrants in our group began to complain that they wanted to continue to travel. On my part, I didn’t mind waiting a few more days. Thank G‑d, I had already penetrated the Iron Curtain, and I was glad simply to have left Russia.

The Jewish Agency constructed a huge tent and held a public welcome for the group of philanthropists. Since I knew Hebrew and was among the youngest of the group, they gave me a special task: I was placed on the dais and honored with reciting hamotzi and cutting the giant challah, as well as saying a few words of greeting in Hebrew.

After the reception, a man from the Agency told me that I would be placed on the same flight as the philanthropists, and they asked me to speak with them during the flight. Indeed, I became quite acquainted with several of them.

On 11 Elul, 5731 (1971), I finally arrived in Eretz Yisrael. I elatedly descended from the plane, and unable to restrain myself, I bent down and gave the holy ground of Eretz Yisrael a loving kiss.

We made our way to my sister Sarah Mishulovin’s house in Kfar Chabad, and a few days later we moved to our permanent residence in the Nachalat Har Chabad section of Kiryat Malachi.

The very next day, our daughter Chana’le began attending the Chabad school in the community. I stood there, looking through the window and thinking excitedly: Our dreams have come true at last! Our daughter will not be forced to attend public school in Russia. She will be able to absorb a chassidic education, surrounded by the pure air of Eretz Yisrael!

Six months later our son was born, whom we named Efraim Fishel after my father-in-law, R. Efraim Fishel Demichovsky. Boruch Hashem, we have merited to receive much nachas from our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, all of whom are continuing the beautiful heritage of Chabad.

Two weeks after our arrival in Eretz Yisrael, I attended a gathering for newly arrived immigrants in the house of Rabbi Yehosaf Ralbag, the rabbi of Kiryat Hayovel in Yerushalayim. Isser Harel was there as well, but he acted as if we didn’t recognize each other.

Soon after, I was summoned to the Shabak offices in Tel Aviv. I was in a quandary: On one hand, these were Jews who had the ability to use the information provided to them for the benefit of our people. But on the other hand, the mere thought of associating myself with an organization which was the counterpart of the KGB sent shivers up my spine. I conferred with R. Simcha Gorodetsky, and he advised me to tell them whatever I knew about the goings-on in Russia.

It turned out that the Shabak members with whom I met were familiar to a certain degree with our undercover activities, including our covert yeshiva. I related to them whatever I knew, hoping it would come to use and enable them to assist other Jews.