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Israeli Moslems to Mecca

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Some 4702 Israeli Moslems began crossing this bridge over the Jordan River yesterday for the annual pilgrimage to Mecca — the haj. Several dozen Iranian buses decorated with pictures of the Ayatollah Khomeini waited for the pilgrims on the Israeli side of the bridge.

The drivers ignored King Hussein’s declaration of Monday night that he was ready to join the war with Iraq against Iran and said they felt safe carrying the pilgrims on the holy mission. They also found nothing peculiar in stopping on an Israeli-controlled territory — so hated by the Iranian leader.

The buses were recruited by a West Bank traveling agent to serve the Israeli Moslem pilgrims since there were not enough buses in Amman to transport them in addition to the local and West Bank pilgrims.

Contrary to previous years, when the buses came straight from Teheran through Iraq to Jordan, this year they were forced to take a longer route through Turkey and Syria, each time being detained for several days at border points before they could go on.

The Iranian drivers spoke of the constant waiting of sirens in downtown Teheran and they expressed confidence in Iran winning the war. They stressed that they were willing to die for the Ayatollah.

The pilgrims were seen off at the Allenby Bridge terminal by Binyamin Gur-Arye, the Premier’s advisor on Arab affairs. “I wish them good luck in the name of the government of Israel, ” he said. “Despite the question mark over the haj, we did not stop the preparations.” The pilgrims return from Mecca in Saudi Arabia in two weeks.

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