He opened up his coat to show off a T-shirt emblazoned with the word “Seattle,” but then said with unmistakable conviction, “Israel is the only country for Jews.”
Meanwhile, a group of immigrants from the first plane was inside the airport terminal making its way through the first stage of the absorption process.
After clearing passport control and Customs checks, the immigrants were ushered to a separate lounge, where they waited to meet privately with a counselor from the Absorption Ministry.
Among those sitting in the lounge were Yuri and Lyuba Natanson, a young couple from Kiev. They said they decided to make aliyah in January 1989, when they realized conditions were not getting any better for Jews.
Yuri, a 28-year-old computer programmer, and Lyuba, a 27-year-old chemist who is now pregnant, said they both faced job discrimination in the Soviet Ukraine.
“Anti-Semitism becomes bigger and bigger,” said Lyuba.
“The situation is very serious, very dangerous,” Yuri agreed.
He said the anti-Semitic group Pamyat had picked up popularity in Moscow, Leningrad, Kiev, Novosibirsk, Sverdlovsk and other Soviet cities.
The Natansons said they had “little information” about Israel and were not sure where they were going to live.
“Maybe we go to Haifa,” said Yuri, indicating that Lyuba’s great-aunt immigrated two months ago and now lives there.
For a couple uncertain of their future, they seemed remarkably calm. Perhaps the UJA welcoming ceremony had helped set them at ease.
The welcome was “wonderful,” Yuri exclaimed. “We did not think about this wonderful meeting.”