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Olim Continued to Arrive in Israel Despite Prospect of an Iraqi Attack

January 18, 1991
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The prospect of an imminent attack from Iraq did not deter hundreds of new immigrants from coming to Israel on Thursday, as U.S. and British bombers strafed targets in the nearby Persian Gulf.

Throughout the first day of general alert in Israel, some 900 olim arrived at Ben-Gurion Airport aboard four E1 A1 jets.

The new Israelis, most of them from the Soviet Union but also some from Ethiopia, stepped off planes and were issued gas masks along with their teudot oleh, or immigration certificates.

Quickly tutored in the quickest method of putting on the strange facial protective devices, the immigrants were then bused to hotels in the area, which had become almost totally vacant as most tourists and even some major Diaspora Jewish leaders stayed away from Israel, fearing an outbreak of war.

Most of the arriving immigrants said they had already learned that war had begun in the Gulf while they were still in Europe.

Still they came.

Whatever risks they might encounter in their new homeland were apparently outweighed by their desire to leave their countries of origin as quickly as possible.


In New York, Zalman Shoval, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, told a hastily convened meeting of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations on Thursday morning:

“The good news is that Soviet emigration did not let up even one hour or one day, despite what was going in the last few days in the Middle East.”

E1 A1 continued to fly. But arrangements were being made to keep immigrants in Eastern European transit centers should air traffic become impossible.

On Thursday afternoon, some 200 Ethiopian immigrants landed at the airport, having changed planes in Rome.

About the same number of Soviet newcomers came in via Warsaw.

Transport Minister Moshe Katsav was on hand to greet the arrivals.

Officials of the Jewish Agency for Israel, which held a meeting of its Executive in Jerusalem on Wednesday and Thursday, were confidently predicting that the aliyah would be maintained, albeit on a lower level, for the duration of the crisis.


Agency officials say the numbers would pick up and return to the record December monthly level of more than 35,000 once tension in the area abates.

The Jewish Agency, alert to the threat of an Iraqi attack, undertook elaborate security preparations in absorption centers, as well as youth aliyah villages, schools, and other centers and buildings.

In the absorption centers, bomb shelters were prepared for occupancy, and one room in each apartment was sealed against chemical and biological warfare attacks, as was the case in most Israeli dwellings.

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