Israelis on jet hear boom, feel bump
After missile strike, passengers calm

By Ian Fisher
New York Times
Nov. 29, 2002

LOD, Israel - It was early, and many of the passengers, rested and burnished by the African sun and on their way home, were sleeping.

The plane took off, climbing at only 500 feet, when there was a sudden boom.

"I saw something flying forward, faster than the plane, toward the wing," said Moshe Mery, 29, an engineer who looked out the window. "To tell you the truth, I thought something broke off the plane."

In the cockpit, the captain, Rafi Marek, 46, said he felt a bump. Nothing worrying, he said later.

Not unlike a small bird hitting the belly of the Boeing 757-300.

"Right after feeling this bump, we saw two white stripes coming up from behind the airplane on the left side and a bit above us," he told reporters at Ben Gurion International Airport after the plane arrived safely.

"We were not sure exactly what happened," he said, saying later that the streams of smoke were perhaps 100 yards away. "We knew that something abnormal happened. Not every day you see these kind of rockets or whatever it was. We were not sure at the time."

Marek said he kept on course to Tel Aviv. There was fear but no panic among the 261 passengers. Many did not even realize anything was wrong.

It was not until the plane entered Israeli airspace hours later, joined by an escort of two Israeli fighter jets, that the passengers found out about the other attack, on the Paradise Hotel, where some of them had spent the last week. The captain told them that they, too, had been a target, apparently from a missile attack.

The Israelis on the plane were confronted with the realization that even on vacation away from their often violent, terror-filled home, they still were not safe.

"We went for quiet," said Raz Meshulan, 22, a computer technician, who spent a week in Mombasa with his father, uncle and other relatives. "It was to get away from the daily troubles we have here, to relax.

"But the truth is here. We can't avoid it."

Itsik Mechorash, 47, an unemployed computer technician, said: "They want us to be afraid everywhere. I won't. If I need to go away, I will do it. I hope my friends will do it."

The flight was a weekly charter of Arkia Airlines between Tel Aviv and Mombasa, a popular and relatively cheap destination for many Israelis.

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