Moscow, April 2013 (photo by Lida)
Moscow, Russia, first trip, first seminar, first visit ever.
I had already been to Kiev, Ukraine and to Almaty, Kazakhstan, so I had been to the territory of the former USSR, the former Soviet Union. But this was different. This was Moscow, the center of it all, the Kremlin, Red Square. I was here, at the center.
This was the feared headquarters of the non-free world. So much comes to mind. During my college years my studies focused on the Cold War, the SALT agreements, the Soviet missile threat, and here I was. Here I was just outside the building where all those decisions took place. Here I was at the opposite of the White House.
On the day that I visited the Kremlin it was cold and rainy and we walked for hours, but I could not miss the opportunity to see the seat of the feared former enemy, the Giant of anti Western-ism, the "Other-side" that was closed to us for so long.
So much comes to mind; growing up with the "Soviet Jewry Movement"; our struggle to free the Jews of the Soviet Union, allow them to emigrate to Israel and allow them to freely practice their Judaism and study Hebrew. Today all this is possible.
My Aunt Rose and Uncle Seymour, of blessed memory, visiting here during the dark years and clandestinely meeting with Jews and the "Refuseniks" (Jews punished for applying to emigrate to Israel), demonstrations in New York, Washington, Los Angeles, "Freedom for Soviet Jews!".
The names, Scharansky, Nudel, Mendolovich, Slepak, Begun, Sokolov, Ginsberg, and the famous song...We are leaving Mother Russia, we have waited far too long, all come to my thoughts as I walk the streets of Moscow for the first time.
Long Jewish history here, and so sad and painful, generations of Jews destroyed. Too long and complicated to deal with here but the history of the Jewish people and that of Russia intertwine so much. So many of our tears were cried with a Russian Jewish accent.
World War Two, more than half a million Jews fought as soldiers of the Red Army. More than 200,000 never come back.
Russia, I am here, the history, the pain, We are leaving Mother Russia, but I am here for a few days, ironically, to teach self defense, Israeli style. What a great event! The Russians want to learn our style of Krav Maga.
How the Jews feared the secret police, the KGB. How many stories have I heard of Jews being woken up in the middle of the night and dragged to a KGB office for interrogation, or suddenly pulled off the side of the road on the way to work, but now everything is different, Starbucks, a freedom of sorts, but much remains.
The signs of Communism, the physical and the cultural, are still everywhere. And the scars, the pain, I can feel it everywhere I go.
For years this was the hated enemy of the free world. For years this was the great enemy that the Jews feared so much, but it has come tumbling down and now a new life is trying to emerge. Hard to believe but now one can El Al Israel airlines to Moscow. How times have changed, but have people?
And I am here, from Israel, to teach these guys how to fight. How ironic. Is there hope for a better future?
I was just about the only passenger on the plane who was not fluent in Russian. I was met warmly by my dear friends and students Lida and Kolay. They had been to Israel recently for training with me. Now it was my turn to visit them.
I was amazed at how big Moscow is, and how horrible the traffic is. As Kolay said, "This is not Maaleh Adumim."
Our first stop was Starbucks. Truly a sign that Russia is now part of the free world.
First things first, Starbucks in Moscow. But the prices are in Rubles...
Another Starbucks branch, sign in Russian.
Purchasing a Starbucks mug. This is become my custom all over the world. (photo by Lida)
These are old style Soviet housing projects. Tiny apartments, slowly they are being replaced by more comfortable apartment buildings. Many people seem very content to live this way.
It seems that churches are everywhere. I guess Communism did not wipe out religion totally.
Old style buildings.
Approaching the Kremlin on a cold and rainy day, how appropriate.
Moshe Katz outside the Kremlin walls, who would have imagined. (Photo by Lida)
Special Russian guards...
This says it all, symbol of a fighting nation: Determination, resolve, fighting spirit. One has to admire how the Russians outlasted and defeated the French and the Germans and....all others.
Our two training was intense and demanding. No one here was taking it easy and they would not let me take it easy either! They challenged me with questions and showed an intense desire to learn. No one was looking for an easy time but in the end it proved to be a most productive and enjoyable seminar series.
Lida and Kolay working on knife defense.
Very serious guys, very serious and intensive training.
Eddie spent 3 years in Israel, now trains Krav Maga with one of our IKI schools in Moscow, working hard, building up a sweat he prepares to defends against Olga.
IKI Instructor Azat Fatihov explaining IKI gun defense to new students.
Yevgeni Romanov, Евгений Романов, Azat Fayihov - Азат Фатыхов, Moshe Katz, Alexander Markachev, Александр Маркачев .
With IKI Instructor Azat Fayihov - Азат Фатыхов
Лиди (Lida), Moshe, Kolay (Николай Борисов)
Kolay and Lida helping me with my luggage on the Moscow subways.
Kolay and Moshe on the Moscow subway.
Easy to find your way around Moscow on the subway.
Unlike the USA the subways here are deep deep under the ground. It is difficult to see from this photo but this is on the escalator only about half the way up.
My cousin and tour guide Philip. Living in Moscow and fluent in Russian he was a huge asset during my trip.
Arch built to commemorate the victory of 1812 over the French army led by Napoleon. Patriotic War of 1812. Napoleon entered Russian with over half a million men and left with 27,000. This is a very tough people.
Moscow subway, filled with monuments to honor war heroes.
A monument outside our gym, one of many all over Moscow commemorating the victory over the Nazis and honoring war heroes of the Soviet Union.
A memorial for Jews killed during the Holocaust.
Inside the main sanctuary.