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Articles of Interest by Jay B. Itkowitz During his Journalism Career

Calm tourists leave for Mideast

Long Island Press, October 8, 1977

They were remarkably calm, given the circumstances.

Even the tourists waiting in the El Al terminal to embark on their long-planned trips to Israel exuded an air of confidence that the fighting would soon be over. From the expressions on their faces, one might have surmised that they were traveling to London, for instance, rather than a country in the throes of mobilizing itself for a war that took the world by surprise.

According to an El Al security official, surprisingly few tourists who had booked seats on yesterday afternoon's flight, which did not get off the ground until 2:30 a.m. this morning, cancelled because of the outbreak of hostilities.

One young woman from Detroit said she briefly considered delaying her long planned trip, but decided against it after consulting El Al officials, who assured her and her parents that there was nothing to worry about.

"If there were any risks El Al would not be flying into Lod Airport," said the attractive college student.

Because of the girl's decision - and others like her - El Al had few openings on the departing jumbo jet. And the few spots that did open up were not nearly enough to handle the thousands of requests for bookings on the only airline still handling commercial flights into Israel, said the official. Another departing flight, which left about 3:30 a.m., was also booked full.

Many of the requests for passage came from Israeli students studying in the U.S. who are anxious to get back to their homeland. Many came after being told they were not needed by the Israeli consul in New York, only to be turned away at the airport.

According to the security spokesman, El Al had established a priority list for the few flights available, with first preference going to doctors, nurses, pilots and army officers.

"All the Israeli students want to go back - just like the Six Day War," said the official.

Among the volunteers returning to Israel were two students, who dropped their plans to finish up their studies for their doctorates in law. Both - one from Toronto, the other from Chicago - left their wives and children behind to join in the fighting.

"If I can come back soon my wife and child will not join me," said Eriel Reichman, the 31-year-old law student from the University of Chicago.

"Hopefully the fighting will be finished by the time I get there," said Reichman, a lieutenant with the Israeli paratroopers. "But if not, I hope to see some action… that's why I'm here."

At the airport, Reichman ran into his old friend, David Krietzman, the law student who flew down from York University in Toronto after hearing the news.

Asked how he felt about the timing of the Arab attack, the 29-year-old student said: "It makes me angry that they would attack at any time, especially on Yom Kippur. I think the Arabs made a mistake which they will pay for. It is only a question of time."

As passengers boarded the plane, strains of the song "Exodus" wafted through the halls of the terminal.

Among the passengers were a number of Americans anxious to volunteer their services to Israel for the duration of the conflict. One of the volunteers was Norman Kaish, 23, of Rego Park.

Kaish booked passage on the flight Saturday night. He took leave of his executive post with a Manhattan pollution control firm.

"Maybe I'll work in a hospital," he said, after bidding farewell to his parents, Theodore and Sylvia Kaish of Far Rockaway.

Asked if it was a difficult decision, Kaish, who returned from Israel this summer, said: "I don't see that there's any other choice."