TEL AVIV (Feb. 28)
Joy reigned in some Israeli homes last night, despair in others. For 65 families, the confirmation that their sons were alive, though prisoners of war in Syria, ended nearly six months of agonized suspense. A few of the families had recognized their boys in photos of POWs that appeared in newspapers or magazines over the months. But most had no idea whether they were alive or dead until the list of POWs that U.S. Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger brought from Damascus yesterday was made public.
That same list confirmed the worst fears of 18 other Israeli families whose missing sons were not on it. Whatever glimmer of hope they may have had faded when these families came to the missing soldiers identification center here to be told that the fate of their loved ones remained unknown. Presumably they are dead.
The army manpower authority acted to relieve the anxiety of the POW families as quickly as possible. The list Kissinger brought to Jerusalem from Damascus was in Arabic. It was rushed by helicopter to the Tel Aviv manpower office late yesterday where the names were translated, checked and corrected. Couriers were then sent out to the 65 homes all over the land to bring the good news. Each was accompanied by a medical corpsman for in some cases the good news proved too much and mothers fainted.
One of the families that rejoiced last night was that of Shoshana and Reuben Avinoam whose son, Yitzhak, was missing and found to be among the POWs. In the Bedouin village of Rubba near Rosh Pina in Upper Galilee, the news that three members of the tribe were alive set off wild celebrations. They are the only Arabs among the Israeli POWs. They were captured by Syrians after their farm truck was hit by a shell in the first day of the Yom Kippur War and were not heard from since then.
All 31 Israeli soldiers missing from a position on Mt. Hermon that was captured by the Syrians in the first hours of the war are on the POW list. So are a number of Air Force men presumed to have been killed. But other Israeli pilots who were seen bailing out after their planes were hit and were believed to have parachuted safely were not on the list. It was suggested in some quarters that they may have fallen into the hands of Iraqi or Jordanian soldiers fighting with the Syrian forces who demonstrated unusual cruelty to Israeli prisoners.