Former Prisoner of Zion Anatoly Altman, one of a group of Jews arrested by Soviet officials for attempting to hijack a plane to Israel, died on Thursday in Haifa. He was 77 years old.

Born in Ukraine, Altman was tried for “treason against the homeland” in 1970 after he and several other Russian Jews were arrested by the KGB at the Leningrad airport for “Operation Wedding,” which was an attempt to commandeer a plane and fly it to Israel.

“Today is a very difficult day, but I’m happy, too,” Altman said at his trial. “Because today I started my way home [to Israel]. … And I’m sure, maybe it may take years in prison, but I’m sure I’ll get home to Israel, and from today until that time in the future, I say ‘Shalom to Eretz Yisrael.’ ”

Altman was found guilty in court and sentenced to 12 years of hard labor in a gulag, but was released in 1979, upon which he immigrated directly to Israel.

“May his memory be for a blessing, and may his family and friends be comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem,” the National Coalition Supporting Eurasian Jewry responded in a statement following his passing.