TEL AVIV, Israel - About 40 Iranian Jews completed a covert escape from Iran on Tuesday, hoping to build new lives in Israel after fleeing a hard-line regime that has repeatedly called for the Jewish state's destruction.
Emotional relatives were waiting for them at the terminal of Israel's international airport. Some said they had not seen their family members for many years.
"I'm in heaven," gushed Avraham Dayan, 63, who was waiting for his son, daughter-in-law and grandson. He said he had not seen his 38-year-old son in 11 years, missing his son's wedding and the birth of his grandson.
Officials said the flight came via a third country that they declined to identify.
Each immigrant was to receive $10,000 from the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, a charity that funnels millions of dollars from evangelical donors each year.
The group's director, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, said he believes Iran's 25,000 Jews are in danger. Iran's hard-line president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has repeatedly called for Israel's destruction and called the Holocaust a "myth."
"Many of the Jews there think that this, too, will pass, meaning Ahmadinejad and the mullahs. But our feeling is that this is very similar to the situation of Jews in Germany in the 1930s. By the time they realize it's not going to blow over, it'll be too late," Eckstein said.