NEW YORK (Dec. 21)
Soviet Jewish immigration to Israel via Bucharest has been stopped because of the unrest in Romania, according to reliable sources here.
Some 80 Jews who were traveling to Israel via Bucharest by train were turned back at the border Wednesday night by Romanian authorities, the sources said.
It is not known if there were any Soviet Jews on airplanes flying via Bucharest at the time.
The action was taken as Romanian leader Nicolae Ceausescu declared a state of emergency following a reported massacre of 4,000 people in the western Romanian city of Timisoara, during demonstrations for political reform.
Romanian authorities sealed all borders earlier this week. But until Wednesday, the flow of Soviet Jews through Bucharest continued uninterrupted.
Since then, however, the Romanian Embassy in Moscow has ceased issuing transit visas to Israel. But those already in Bucharest are reportedly being allowed to continue on to Israel.
Bucharest has been the favored route taken by Soviet Jews intent on making aliyah. Direct flights have been provided from Moscow to Bucharest and then from the Romanian capital to Tel Aviv.
Simcha Dinitz, chairman of the World Zionist Organization and Jewish Agency Executives, who was in Moscow for the first Soviet Jewish congress, held an emergency meeting with officials at the Israeli Consulate there Wednesday night, to look for alternate routes.
They discussed flying out emigrating Jews via Finland or Czechoslovakia.
The national airlines of Israel and the Soviet Union have agreed to begin direct flights between the two countries in January. But the accord must still win approval from their respective governments.
Meanwhile, as of Thursday evening, there were no reports of Jewish casualties or damage to any Jewish facilities in Romania.