A friend to Christians and new immigrants to Israel, Member of Knesset (parliament) Yuri Stern, 58, died Tuesday morning after a prolonged battle with cancer.
Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik issued a statement saying that the announcement of Stern's “untimely death stunned everyone.”
“Yuri Stern symbolized, for me, the Zionist oleh (immigrant) who settles into life in Israel and becomes part of the legislative activity,” she said. “Yuri was an example of a dedicated and productive Knesset member.”
Stern was born in Moscow and made aliyah (immigrated to Israel) in 1981. He began his political career when he joined former Likud member Natan Sharansky's Israel B'Aliya (Israel for Immigration) party. In 1999, he joined Avigdor Lieberman’s Israel Beitenu (Israel Our Home) party.
One of Stern’s political high points was forming the Knesset's Christian Allies Caucus, a group dedicated to coalescing support for Israel among Christian groups, particularly evangelicals. Monday’s meeting was the first major Christian Allies Caucus meeting Stern missed due to his illness.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert gave his condolences to the Shtern family.
“He fought for the Land of Israel when he was in Russia and he did not stop fighting for it after immigrating to Israel,” Olmert said. “Yuri was a man of culture and letters with a deep awareness of Israel's heritage and of Jewish tradition. His uncompromising political views were alongside his extraordinary cultural and social sensitivity.”
Stern is survived by his wife and two children. His funeral begins at 4 p.m. Tuesday at the Givat Shaul cemetery in Jerusalem.