Yuli Yoel Edelstein was born in Czernowitz (former Soviet Union). He was active in Zionist circles in Moscow where he fought for the human rights of Jews to leave the Soviet Union and for their right to practice their religion as they saw fit. As a result of these efforts, he was arrested by the KGB on trumped-up charges in 1984 and sentenced to 3 years in a labor camp. Following his release in 1987, he emigrated to Israel with his family.
After his emigration, Edelstein completed his education through the Mandel Jerusalem Fellows program and worked in a number of educational institutions.
Since he was first elected to the Knesset in 1996, Edelstein has served at various times as Minister of Immigrant Absorption, Deputy Minister of Immigration, and Minister of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs. In addition, he also served as a Deputy Speaker of the Knesset in the 15th, 16th, and 17th Knessets.
In March 2013, Edelstein was elected by a large majority to serve as Speaker of the 19th Knesset, and in March 2015, he was elected to a second term as Speaker, in the 20th Knesset, by a large majority, and without opposition.
During his terms as Speaker of the Knesset, Edelstein has taken many steps to make the Knesset a leader in important fields such as sustainability, parliamentary transparency, and accessibility. In order to enhance the standing of the Knesset, he established the Parliamentary Oversight Coordination Unit to increase oversight of the Government and set question times for Government ministers in the Plenum, among other steps.
Speaker Edelstein has also placed an important emphasis on expanding the international relations of the Knesset. He has hosted a record number of foreign heads of state, including the President of India, the President of the Council of Ministers of the Italian Republic, the President of Ukraine, the President of the German Bundestag, and the Vice President of the United States. He has also addressed a number of parliaments, including the Bundestag, the House of Representatives of Belgium, the European Parliament, and the UK Parliament.
Speaker Edelstein's personal history has continued to inform his work, and a deep commitment to human rights, strengthening democracy, and building bridges between peoples around the world have remained hallmarks of his parliamentary work.