Upon arrival in Israel, the Shtern family moved into the absorption center in Mevasseret Zion, outside Jerusalem, together with other families who had been part of the group of aliya activists in Russia.
For the first two years, Yuri continued working in his profession, as an adviser to a company that developed economic models. At the same time, he and his aliya activist friends also engaged inhasbara activities, pro-Zionist information efforts, on behalf of the Nativ Liaison Bureau, an Israeli organization that maintained contact with Jews who had remained behind the Iron Curtain. They brought the plight of Jews in the former USSR to the attention of the Western world and enlisted public opinion worldwide to exert pressure on the Russian authorities to release the Refuseniks. Thus were the first seeds sown for the movement behind what eventually became the Soviet Jewry Education and Information Center.
With his excellent command of English and his ability to express himself fluently, Yuri became one of the movement’s most prominent speakers. As a Nativ envoy, he traveled extensively to Jewish communities throughout Europe and the United States, working to enlist their support.
One year into their aliya,Yuri, Lena, Polina, 8, and Marik, 3, moved to the Gilo neighborhood of Jerusalem. Leaving their diplomas and academic degrees behind, Yuri and Lena both soon shifted gears: Lena became a florist and Yuri turned his attentions to the public arena.
Manager of El-David (Nokdim)
In 1983, after the brutal murder of a resident of the Tekoa settlement, a new settlement, El-David, which eventually would be called Nokdim, was established at the foot of the Herodion hill. Yuri’s supportive visits to the new settlement and his public activity made him a familiar figure to the El-David residents and the Amana settlement movement, and he was offered the job of settlement manager. It was Yuri, a new immigrant only two years in Israel, who actually coordinated the establishment of El-David.
As settlement manger, Yuri tackled new and different tasks: municipal administration, agriculture, infrastructure development and and building ties with the neighboring Arab villages. This young city dweller and Moscow University graduate achieved the ultimate Zionist dream, establishing a new settlement in the Land of Israel.
Through his work with El-David, Yuri developed a close relationship with Amana, and this in turn, strengthened his political outlook. Because he did not own a car, or even have a driver’s license, Yuri traveled daily by public transport, including Arab-operated buses, from Gilo to the settlement in the Judean Hills. Lena fully supported Yuri and understood the importance of his work, despite his many long hours away from home.
Throughout his life, and over the course of his long years of public service in Israel, Yuri was a pioneer and an initiator. By creating a variety of different frameworks and injecting them with content and purpose, he built a life for himself as well as for countless others.