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Mayors Back from Leningrad Report Deceit, Delay and Trickery by Soviet Authorities

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Deceit, delay and trickery by Soviet authorities in connection with the participation of an Israeli delegation in the International Congress of Twin Cities in Leningrad was reported yesterday by Oved Ben-Ami, mayor of Nathanya and head of the delegation. “After receiving our Soviet entry visas in Paris after a delay, the representative of the Soviet travel agency in Paris told us there was no room for us on the plane to Leningrad,” Mr. Ben-Ami told newsmen at Lydda Airport. “We shouted at the man and threatened to call a press conference to tell the world how we had been tricked. It was only then that arrangements for our flight were made–and when we were on board the plane we saw that it was nearly empty.” The five-man Israeli delegation attended the conference last week on an official invitation. They were the first non-Communist Israelis in the USSR officially since the Six-Day War.

In Leningrad, Mr. Ben-Ami said, “The news of the presence of an Israeli delegation spread rapidly among the local Jews. Wherever we went we were spotted and welcomed by Jews. Some even came to our hotel rooms to talk with us. For us this was an exciting meeting with brothers–like the meeting of Joseph with his brothers in ancient Egypt.” The delegation leader added that he was “still shaking with emotion” over young Soviet Jews telling him in Leningrad that “they would even walk to Israel on foot if they could find the slightest crack in the wall that surrounds them.” Another Jew there, he said, came to his hotel room “at the risk of his life” because “he felt he had to pour out the bitterness within his heart before a visitor from Israel.” Mr. Ben-Ami concluded that his delegation’s presence in Leningrad was, nonetheless, an overall success, as it had served as a counter-balance to harangues by the Arab delegates.

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