TEL AVIV (Jan. 30)
A group of 150 leaders of the Israel Bond Organization from the United States, Canada and Latin America, invited to Israel by Premier Golda Meir for a three-day conference on Israel’s economic needs, landed at Lydda Airport today. The group, headed by Sam Rothberg, general chairman of the IBO, had an emotional meeting with 135 Jewish emigres from the Soviet Union whose plane landed at about the same time. They also encountered a group of about 100 Orthodox demonstrators protesting the alleged firing of a Georgian Jewish immigrant employed at the airport because he would not work on the Sabbath.
The prominent businessmen and communal leaders from the Western hemisphere greeted the Russian newcomers who debarked from their plane in fur caps and winter coats, many of them carrying prized possessions in their hands such as Persian carpets. Mrs. Elia Silber, of Riga, an engineer who spoke English, told the airport crowd that it was a happy day for the emigres to be able to “return to their own country.” She said not every Jew was permitted to leave Russia but all hoped that some day they would be able to join their brethren in Israel.
Rothberg said his group was witnessing an important chapter of history in the arrival of the once isolated Russian Jews in Israel. Outside the air terminal about 100 students from the Orthodox Bar Ilan University and religious elements from Petach Tikva and Lydda carried signs demanding that the airport be closed on Saturday and accused the government of forcing religious immigrants to work on the Sabbath.
They referred to the recent case of a Georgian Jew employed as a porter who received a dismissal notice allegedly because he wouldn’t work on Saturday. That issue was brought up in the Knesset last week where Labor Minister Yosef Almogi stated flatly that nobody was deprived of his job because he was a Sabbath observer. The Histadrut, which investigated the claim of the Georgian Jew, found there was no basis for his charge. The demonstrators dispersed peacefully before police were called.