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Analysis: Why Russia’s Putin has a soft spot for Israel and Jews

Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin was born on 7 October 1952 in Leningrad, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union (now Saint Petersburg), the youngest of three children of Vladimir Spiridonovich Putin (1911–1999) and Maria Ivanovna Putina (née Shelomova; 1911–1998).

Putin’s birth was preceded by the deaths of two brothers, Viktor and Albert, born in the mid-1930s. Albert died in infancy and Viktor died of diphtheria during the Siege of Leningrad in World War II.

Putin’s mother was a factory worker and his father was a conscript in the Soviet Navy, serving in the submarine fleet in the early 1930s. Early in World War II, his father served in the destruction battalion of the NKVD. Later, he was transferred to the regular army and was severely wounded in 1942.

Putin’s maternal grandmother was killed by the German occupiers of Tver region in 1941, and his maternal uncles disappeared at the war front.

The question is now again what moves Putin in his somewhat complicated relationship with Israel.

The answer to this question could be found in what happened to the former KGB chief during his early youth when he was living with his parents in an apartment in St. Petersburg.

Israeli media have already published some details about these apparently fateful years with the Jewish Telegraph Agency (JTA) reporting in 2018 that an elderly Jewish couple in the apartment building where Putin lived “cared for the boy”.

JTA didn’t report any details about this “care” but indicated that this could be the reason Putin has a soft spot for Jews and Israel as has also become apparent from the fact that the Russian President purchased an apartment in Tel Aviv for his former teacher Mina Yuditskaya.

Now, however, the Shabbat sheet Dwash Shabbat, a publication with Jewish teachings composed by a group of Jews close to Tiberias rabbi and kabbalist Dov Kook, revealed new details about Putin’s relationship with his Jewish neighbors.

Dwash Shabbat got its information from Russian Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar the head of the Chabad movement in Russia.

According to the Dwash Shabbat Putin’s parents were hard-working very poor Russians who barely had enough money to feed their child.

The Jewish couple was the only one that took care of the young Putin despite the presence of other Russian families in the building who were aware of the problematic situation in the family of the Russian leader.

Every time the Jewish neighbors noticed that the young Putin was home alone without food they prepared him a decent meal and also invited him to their Shabbat table while also inviting him for the Jewish holidays.

This exposed the young Putin to Jewish rituals and prayers since the couple was religious.

The neighbors even bought clothes for the boy and made sure he wouldn’t be without basic needs.

Putin studied German at Saint Petersburg High School 281 and speaks German fluently.

This, and not the fact that Putin also cares for the more than one million residents of the former Soviet Union who now reside in Israel seems to be the real reason for Putin’s soft spot regarding Israel and the Jews.

Header: Russian President Vladimir Putin, speaking with Russian Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar, left, and Alexander Boroda, head of the Jewish Communities’ Federation, during their meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow, Dec. 28, 2016. (Alexei Druzhinin/AFP/Getty Images)