LOD, Israel (Aug. 12)
Tears flowed early Wednesday morning when 60 Yugoslav children who had been evacuated to Israel were reunited with their parents at Ben-Gurion Airport.
The children, among 170 Yugoslav youths who have lived in Jewish Agency youth villages since arriving in Israel two months ago, were bused to the airport at 3 a.m. Despite the late hour, they were wide awake, their eyes bright with anticipation.
The emotional reunion took place an hour later, once the passengers of Flight 368, which had come from Budapest, passed through customs. As their parents waited expectantly, the children were ushered into the large terminal.
For a moment, parents and children scanned the room, looking for a familiar face. Then, with a wave and a shout, they ran into each other’s arms. Flashbulbs popped as a dozen photographers snapped the teary embraces.
Ana Yankovich, 15, clutched her mother’s hand and said, “It hurts to be so far away from my family. We’re very close.” Her mother nodded and said, “As long as we are together, things will be fine. The location isn’t important.”
Asked whether she is considering aliyah, Ana’s mother shrugged her shoulders. “I don’t know; probably not. Ana will finish out the school year here and then hopefully return to Belgrade.”
But Ana said she had come to see Israel as home. “I hope to make aliyah someday, but it will be with my own children,” she said.
Most of the parents will be in the country for two weeks, at the invitation of the Jewish Agency. The agency hopes that this short “pilot trip” will encourage them to join their children in Israel permanently.
“The children have been with us about two months, and they are thriving,” said Vicki Angel, the trip coordinator. “We hope that once the parents see Israel and how well their children have adjusted to life here, they will make aliyah.”
Of the 120 Jews from the former Yugoslavia who have come on pilot trips since last November, more than half have moved to Israel, Angel said.
Despite the tensions in their country, most of the Jews who arrived on Wednesday said they had not been personally affected by the fighting.
But many parents seemed to share the feelings of the father who said, “The war hasn’t really hurt us yet, but I’m glad I sent my kids to Israel — just in case.”