Hell in the terminal
WHEN the Paris-Israel plane stopped over in Athens, Emma Rosenkovitch was shocked at how rude a couple of passengers were, bumping into everyone with their giant black bags.
A few minutes later - with guns pointed at flight attendants - the same men and two others, a German couple, announced they were hijacking the Air France plane.
"People were ripping off their Jewish star necklaces and throwing them on the floor; they were afraid," says Mrs Rosenkovitch, of Jerusalem. "One woman shoved her six-year-old under her chair and told him to stay there, that it was a game and they were making a movie."
On one hand the hijackers were behaving "humanely", making an effort to put everyone at ease, creating a section for families with children and giving out sweets.
But they were waving their guns and talking about releasing wanted murderers from jail. Within hours, they would land in Uganda and spend a week under gunpoint in Entebbe Airport.
For the first days, the hostages "made do". They divided the large room up, gathering books to make a library and creating a play area for kids. People rationed their bananas to give to religious people who wouldn't eat the unknown meat products. The hijackers even brought a cart with items from duty-free.
"Everyone jumped on them," recalls Mrs Rosenkovitch. "They said don't worry; we'll come back every week. We said, 'Every week? Prisoners at least know how much time they have to serve.'"
Things took a turn for the worse as the deadline neared. The hijackers started sorting passports and calling the Israelis into a smaller room. The released passengers, knowing they'd be sent home, passed books, medicines and toiletries to the Israelis.
A few Holocaust survivors had to be calmed. "They thought they were going back to the concentration camp. They saw crates of coffee and tea and were sure they were explosives."
Every day it worsened, physically and mentally; people were hoarding food and becoming very sick. On the last Friday night at a Kabbalat Shabbat, the observant people sang the prayers.
"On Shabbat we went to sleep at about 11, but later we heard shooting. We thought the deadline was up and they were coming to start murdering us," recalls Mrs Rosenkovitch.
"I lay down on my daughter; my husband lay down on our son, we were trying to save them, we nearly crushed them, they were so scared.
"That's when I looked up and saw this young man in fatigues with curls, screaming in Hebrew. I yelled, 'They're here!' In that moment it was over for me. We gathered our things and our children and ran to the plane."