The next day I received an unexpected surprise – a real birthday gift! – when the official in charge of storing the prisoners' belongings brought me a tiny book with a black binding, my Book of Psalms!
(Fear No Evil, Natan Sharansky, translated by Stefani Hoffman, Random House New York, 1988)
This is how Natan Sharansky describes one moment on the 21st of January 1980, when his prison officer gave him back his black book of Tehilim. The book provided Sharansky with new hope during the long years of his captivity. He was never to be separated from this book ever again.
In 2014, Sharansky visited the National Library of Israel and met Timna Elper, Director of the Department of Conservation and Restoration at the Library.
"I was so excited to meet Sharansky," she says, "I told him of the impact that the story of his Tehilim, as he described it in his autobiography, had on my life." Sharansky then pulled the small Tehilim from his pocket and showed it to her. The book wasn't in great shape, as is reasonable to assume given the fact that it accompanied him for so many years in the worst conditions of K.G.B facilities. The Library administrators looked at the book and offered to restore it.
The cover of the book was torn, as were many of the pages. Using its unique techniques, the restoration department worked on the book: reconstructed the cover, mended the tears and returned it to its excited owner on the 8th of May 2014.
At the end of the book, Sharansky writes about the very last moments, 30 years ago, before he entered the plane that would take him to freedom:
"Where's my Psalm book?"
You received everything that was permitted," answered the intellectual in an unexpectedly rough tone. He signaled to the tails to take me away. I quickly dropped to the snow.
"I won't move until you give me back my Psalm book." When nothing happened, I lay down in the snow and started shouting, "Give me back my Psalm book!"
After a brief consultation the boss gave me the Psalm book. I got up and quickly mounted the ramp.
In a dark world of suffering and injustice, one small black book gave light to the imprisoned Sharanksy. Reminded him his Jewish heritage. Reminded him of his wife, who gave him the book before his arrest and provided him with the strength to survive the most terrible of times.