NEW YORK (Jul. 16)
Two prominent former Prisoners of Conscience who were released from a labor camp March 19 arrived in Israel Thursday via a direct flight from Rumania, according to the National Conference on Soviet Jewry (NCSJ). Mark Nepomniashchy and Yakov Levin, father and son-in-law, were travelling with their wives via Bucharest “on principle, to create a precedent,” Levin told a New York Times Moscow correspondent.
The plans to travel the “new route” direct to Israel–bypassing the traditional transit center in Vienna where the Jewish Agency and HIAS (Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society) register and process Soviet emigres and where most of these have been leaving for the United States–are, however, nothing new. HIAS executive vice president Karl Zukerman told JTA: “To my knowledge, it has always been possible to fly from Moscow to Bucharest to Ben Gurion Airport. There has been a notice to that effect for years at the Dutch Embassy in Moscow, which handles Israeli interests in the Soviet Union.”
‘ALWAYS AN OPTION’
Zukerman added that, “If Levin thought he was creating a precedent, okay. But it’s always been an option.”
The NCSJ said “it’s been done before in a number of cases. But it’s quite possible that Levin doesn’t realize that.”
Glenn Richter, coordinator of the Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry, said that “Soviet Jewish activists have not indicated to us any clear sense that direct flights through Rumania to Israel would begin either on a limited or on a widespread basis soon. There’s no corroborating evidence that what is happening with the Nepomniashchy-Levin family would be duplicated.”
Auguries of a change in the flight plans of Soviet Jewish emigres were presented in March in statements by prominent American Jewish visitors who met in Moscow with Soviet officials–Rabbi Arthur Schneier, president of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation here, and Morris Abram, NCSJ chairman, who traveled with Edgar Bronfman, president of the World Jewish Congress.
They returned with tentative assurances that Bucharest was being substituted for Vienna as the first arrival point for emigrating Soviet Jews, ensuring direct routes to Israel and eliminating the opportunity for “neshira”–dropping out of Soviet Jews who emigrate with Israeli papers and then register as refugees in Vienna and come to the U.S. and some other countries in the West. However, to date, no change has been made, and the Soviets never officially verified that such a substitution would be made.