Georgian Jews flee to Israel as clashes with Russia continue
160 Israelis still traveling in Georgia amid bombing blitz; Georgian Jews: The whole community is scared.
The Jewish community in Tbilisi fears for their safety as Georgia clashes with Russia over control of the breakaway province of South Ossetia, said a Holon woman Sunday, while waiting for her father to return to Israel from a family visit to the Georgian capital.
"He went to the capital for a month," Eva Rosen said at Ben-Gurion International Airport on Sunday, where she was waiting for an Airzena Georgian Airlines flight with some 200 Israelis on it, including her father.
"He was very scared. He said that every night he heard explosions, the electricity was cut off, there was no Internet, there was no television. His sisters are scared and they submitted a request to immigrate [to Israel] and have not yet been accepted."
"He said the entire Jewish community is frightened," added Rosen. "People want to flee the capital. He said the men aren't staying home. All of them want to fight and be inducted because they are angry about the sudden attacks."
Speaking in broken Hebrew, Rosen's father made a gun with his fingers when he met his relatives at the airport, and said: "In Georgia, boom boom. In Israel, quiet. There's nothing like coming home. It was scary."
However, Avi Fahima seemed more worried about the situation in Georgia than were his wife and 9-year-old son, who were returning from a vacation on the same flight.
"They're complacent - not like us here in Israel," he said. "They don't realize what's going on there. I was constantly updating my wife about what was going on in the streets of Georgia. Slowly I realized that I know more than she does."
The youngster said his vacation was fun and he didn't understand why he needed to come home early.
Meanwhile, Arkia Israel Airlines said Sunday that some 160 of its passengers are still in Georgia. The company's deputy director general, David Machlev, said if the Foreign Ministry formally bans travel to Georgia, Arkia will try to bring all the travelers back and will cancel its flight scheduled for Friday.
European airlines operating in Israel have stopped flying from their home countries to Georgia, making the direct flight from Tbilisi to Ben-Gurion airport one of the only ways to fly out of the country.
Eighteen Israelis on a jeep tour of Georgia are planning to cut their trip short and return to Israel via Turkey. The Medraft travel agency organizing the trip decided to bring them to Turkey overland, and fly them home from Istanbul, instead of taking the risk of flying out of Georgia.
Another two or three other Israeli groups are apparently continuing their trips, merely changing their itinerary to avoid the conflict zones. Other Israeli groups have canceled plans to travel in Georgia, and some are planning to go to Ireland instead.
Russia expanded its bombing blitz against neighboring Georgia on Sunday, targeting the country's capital for the first time, while Georgian troops pulled out of the breakaway province of South Ossetia, as Russia demanded, the Associated Press reported.
Georgia launched a major offensive to regain control over South Ossetia overnight Friday, and some 1,500 people have reportedly been killed there since then, with the death toll rising.