JERUSALEM (May. 25)
Observers here today characterized Foreign Minister Abba S. Eban’s whirlwind tour of the Western capitals as the “last chance mission” for peace in the Middle East. Only speedy, effective action by the Western powers to compel President Nasser to lift the blockade he has proclaimed of the Gulf of Akaba, it was felt here, can forestall Israeli military action to reopen the vital waterway.
Meanwhile, special emergency committees have been set up in major cities to control essential services in the event of an emergency stemming from the current tense Middle East situation. Municipal officials have asked private car owners to provide transportation help because of a shortage of vehicles used in Israel’s callup of reserves. It also has been proposed that women replace mobilized drivers in special essential transport services.
Israelis were preparing today for any eventuality. The Ministry of Education issued special instructions for safety measures in all the schools and procedures to be followed in the event the present tension erupts into a shooting war. Air-raid drills were held yesterday in a number of schools and will be held daily until the crisis is passed.
Air-raid shelters were hastily being made ready for use by the civilian population in the event of any contingency. Teams of housewives were organized to prepare the shelters already set up in apartment houses and private homes. There was a significant reduction in public bus services in Tel Aviv and other cities. Some routes were discontinued and the frequency of operation of others changed.
The Ministry of Commence and Industry sought to reassure nervous housewives seeking to put in supplies of essential foodstuffs. The Ministry announced that the country had ample supplies of vital foodstuffs such as fats, flour and sugar. In many factories, women were seen today replacing men who had been called up for service during the crisis.
Officials said today that 50 Torah scrolls have been sent in the past few days to field synagogues opened for newly mobilized troops in southern Israel. More scrolls will be sent for services this coming Saturday. The scrolls were among several hundred recently received from Rumania.
Mr. Eban’s first reports, following his meeting with President de Gaulle and Foreign Minister Couve de Murville yesterday were said here to have some reassuring aspects. Israelis were pleased, too, by the firmness of President Johnson’s declaration and Washington’s insistence that the Strait of Tiran must be kept open by force if necessary and were waiting for such clarification as Mr. Eban might get as to just how Washington visualized the attainment of this objective.
On this, the time element loomed as all important to most Israelis. Measures such as Washington indicated, it was pointed out, might take a long time and consultations could be protracted for weeks and even months. Israel, it was stressed, was not prepared to wait for a solution of the problem unless, in the interim the strait and her lifeline to the East were reopened for ships sailing to and from the port of Eilat.