JERUSALEM, Israel – For many, former Soviet refusenik Natan Sharansky is one of Israel's modern-day heroes.
From 1977 to 1986, the Soviet Union imprisoned Sharansky on false charges of spying for the US when all he wanted was to immigrate to the Jewish homeland. He was finally freed in a prisoner swap with the US in February 1986 and immigrated to Israel. That same year he was awarded the US Medal of Honor.
CBN News interviewed Sharansky last week about immigration. Sharansky told Ross how he himself decided to move to Israel.
For the past nine years, he served as the Jewish Agency chairman of the executive and will step down later this year.
Israeli Minister of Education Naftali Bennet announced Sharansky will be the recipient of this year's prestigious Israel Prize Lifetime Achievement award for immigration.
Encouraging "Aliya" or immigration to Israel has been his passion and life's work.
A few years after his arrival, Sharansky and Yuli Edelstein, now serving as Knesset speaker, formed a political party called Yisrael B'Aliyah to help Soviet Jews immigrate to Israel. The party eventually merged with Likud.
After serving in various ministerial posts in the Knesset, Sharansky left the government in 2009 to chair the Jewish Agency and encourage others to make aliyah – immigrate to Israel under the Law of Return.
During his long career, Sharansky authored three books, an autobiography entitled, "Fear No Evil;" "The Case for Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror," co-authored by Ron Dermer, today serving as Israel's US ambassador; and "Defending Identity: Its Indispensable Role in Protecting Democracy."