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Children From Chernobyl Area Arrive For Holiday In Israel

December 20, 1989

JERUSALEM (AP) _ A group of 52 Soviet teen-agers who were exposed to radiation during the Chernobyl nuclear accident arrived in Israel on Wednesday for a three-week holiday.

The children, guests of Israel’s United Kibbutz Movement, came under an agreement on youth exchanges signed by Israel’s Agriculture Minister Abraham Katz-Oz in Moscow this month.

Katz-Oz and Vice Premier Shimon Peres were waiting at the Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv for the excited children, brought by a special Soviet Aeroflot airlines flight from Moscow.

″We know what you have suffered and we all hope the warm sun of this country will be of benefit to you,″ Peres said. ″What we, the older people, have lost, you the young ones can regain by bringing understanding between our two peoples.″

″We shall pray that you should gain complete freedom, you pray for us that we should achieve complete peace, and we both shall pray for better understanding between our countries,″ he said.

The Soviet children, aged 14 to 16, were also greeted by Israeli youths of their own age from five kibbutzim, or collective farms, in the southern Negev desert.

The young guests will spend several days in the Negev and will also visit Negev’s capital of Beersheba and the Galilee, Agriculture Ministry spokesman Naftali Yaniv said.

The Soviet children are not suffering from any radiation-related diseases following the April 1986 accident at Chernobyl, the worst ever involving a nuclear reactor. But they will be under medical observation by local doctors and some may undergo closer check-ups in Israeli hospitals.

Another group of 50 children from the Chernobyl area is due to arrive in Israel next year. The exchange program would encompass 1,000 youths aged 15 to 17 from both countries.

″This is only one of the agreements signed by Katz-Oz,″ Yaniv said. ″We hope that next week we can start to implement the second agreement, on the supply of fresh Israeli agricultural products to Moscow region.″

Katz-Oz, the first Israeli minister to travel to Moscow in at least 22 years, was invited there by the Soviet Academy of Sciences.

The $30 million agricultural agreement stipulates export of 90,000 tons of fresh fruits and vegetables to the Moscow region, which consumes 2.5 million tons a year. A third party, in return, would sell Soviet goods for hard currency and transfer the money to Israel.

The Soviet Union cut diplomatic ties with Israel following the 1967 Middle East War. The countries exchanged low-level diplomatic missions in 1987-88 and are developing cultural and economic ties.

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