TEL AVIV (Jul. 3)
The first Jews to leave the Soviet Union since new passport regulations went into effect Monday arrived in Budapest on Tuesday and were expected to be in Israel by Thursday.
According to reports from the Hungarian capital, the first flight of 95 reached the transit point there Tuesday and another 335 were due Wednesday en route to Israel.
It could not immediately be determined how many Soviet Jewish emigrants were arriving in the two other principal transit points: Warsaw and Bucharest, Romania.
The new Soviet emigration law that took effect July 1 allows anyone to leave the country, but only with a passport.
Israeli officials have expressed concern that the sudden massive demand for passports will overwhelm the Soviet bureaucracy, delaying the departure of Jews for Israel.
But top officials of OVIR, the Soviet emigration authority, have promised Israeli officials and American Jewish leaders that Jews who already have exit permits will get priority in receiving passports.
There are already reports that the OVIR office in Kiev is giving preference to those bond for Israel.
Nevertheless, anticipation of bureaucratic delays has resulted in a stampede of departures for Israel in recent weeks. About 8,000 Soviet Jews landed here last weekend alone, and more than 20,000 olim arrived during June, the biggest monthly number so far this year.
Israeli immigration authorities predict the June rush will mean much smaller numbers of arrivals this month, even if the anticipated passport delays do not materialize.