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Detained Israelis Returning Home

November 12, 2001

JERUSALEM (AP) _ Nearly 100 Israelis detained in the United States in sweeps after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks are starting to come home, Israeli officials said Monday.

Most of the detained Israelis are young adults working illegally to make money while traveling in the United States, a common practice among Israelis, some parents said.

After two months in custody for working illegally, Roy Barak, 23, and Moti Butbul, 26, were released Friday and returned to Israel. Of the nearly 100 people taken into custody, more are expected to be released soon, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Irit Stopper said.

Barak and Butbul were working for a moving company when they were detained on Sept. 12 near a Pennsylvania highway because they were in the country on tourist visas. Barak said he had a six-month visa but had been in the United States for 14 months.

``If you have a Middle Eastern appearance, it’s not very comfortable in United States right now,″ Stopper said.

Rachel Feinmesser, Israel’s consul in Philadelphia, said about 20 men were arrested in her five-state region for working illegally. The Israeli consul in Chicago, Booni Kohavi, said 24 Israelis were arrested in St. Louis and Kansas City after the attacks and are awaiting hearings.

Barak said he and Butbul were isolated from the general prison population a few days after they were detained. While in solitary confinement, they were questioned twice by FBI agents.

``They asked us in the beginning about the bombing, if we knew something, if we were involved,″ Barak said. ``After this, they asked us if we were spies, if someone sent us here, if we were sent because we knew this bombing was coming.″

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