Israelis Guard Haredis' Return From Kiev

Israeli security guards were dispatched to the Kiev airport to safeguard the return of some 14,000 Bratslav Hasids to Israel, in view of Hezbollah's threats to avenge the murder of its "operations chief," Imad Mughniyeh, earlier this year, Airport Authority sources revealed yesterday.

An "aerial shuttle" consisting of some 80 flights brought the Hasids back home yesterday. They had flown to Ukraine on the eve of Rosh Hashanah to pray at the grave of Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav. This is an annual pilgrimage that dates back to 1811, the year after Rabbi Nachman was buried in the city of Uman.

On Rosh Hashanah eve, advertisements showing scantily-dressed women were removed from Ben-Gurion Airport to spare the Hasids' feelings as they passed through. The duty-free shops also removed pictures and advertisements that might embarrass the ultra-Orthodox pilgrims.

The Airports Authority also prepared special compounds for the Hasids' check-in and security checks, set up separate passport control counters and stationed ushers to help maintain order. In addition, it set aside prayer areas and offices for the pilgrims' travel agents in the airport.

At the Hasids' request, the authority also delivered special kosher food to Ukraine, on top of the single food box each traveler was allowed to take on the plane.

The project was coordinated by the Bratslav Hasidic community, travel agencies, various airlines and Ben-Gurion Airport's security, passenger service, operating and maintenance divisions.