May 2006 – January 2007
Yuri had been a healthy man, and had been in fine physical shape. Working intensively for 12–14 hours a day, seven days a week, was routine for him. But it would seem that the hard work, stress and pressures that are an integral part of politics eventually weakened his immune system. In addition, Yuri became emotionally involved in events connected with the Summer 2005 Disengagement Process, suffering a deep personal crisis. This, he believed, caused the cancer to develop in his body.
In the winter of 2006, Yuri began to suffer from acute headaches, but coudn’t find time to deal with the pain because of the stormy election campaign being conducted around him. The doctors he did consult were sure it was a simple case of sinusitis, further delaying a proper diagnosis. It was only that May 2006 that a malignant growth was detected in his nasal sinuses. On the eve of the urgent operation they ordered, doctors discovered that the cancer had metastasized to other parts of his body.
Yuri began chemotherapy treatments immediately, but felt a need to do more. With Lena’s encouragement, he sought out alternative therapies such as reiki, guided imagery, homeopathy, acupuncture and diet. Yuri also was surrounded by a strong and supportive circle of family and friends who never left his side from the moment his condition was discovered.
When Yuri’s condition became public knowledge, his home and office were immediately flooded with thousands of messages of support from people throughout Israel and the world, boosting his morale and giving him the strength and will to continue his battle against cancer. Following a number of chemotherapy sessions, the growths began to recede significantly and a feeling of optimism swept over the family.
In the summer, after 36 years of marriage, Lena and Yuri decided to stand under a kosher hupah for the first time in their lives. Their original wedding had been a civil wedding ceremony in Russia in 1970. This moving celebration, in the presence of family and friends, took place in Jerusalem in the home of close friends. Following the wedding ceremony, the newlyweds traveled to the United States for a second honeymoon, which included participation in a special support workshop for cancer patients.
In October, after their return from the United States, Yuri’s condition deteriorated. But he was determined to attend the winter session of the Knesset and to continue his activities for as long as he could.
Yuri was admitted to the Oncology Department at Hadassah Medical Center in Ein Karem in early December due to the continued deterioration of his health. He was continually surrounded by his supportive circle of family and friends. In the evenings, close friends would gather in his room to sing and make music, tell stories and reminisce about the past. Despite the cancer ravaging his body and the rapid decline in his physical condition, Yuri remained strong in spirit and in soul until the very end. He was smiling, telling jokes, singing and praying until his last moment.
Surrounded by his family, Yuri departed this world on the morning of January 16, 2007.
May his memory be blessed.