Kosovar Jews share seder with Netanyahu

JERUSALEM — Twenty-two year old Anita Fetahi was exhausted after her journey from Kosovo.

Along with her parents and her 15-year-old brother, Anita left the war-torn region three weeks ago. After eight days in Budapest, they arrived in Israel on Wednesday of last week, just in time for Passover.

"We have been trying to leave Kosovo for a long time," she said, "but we were waiting for the paperwork to come through."

The Fetahi children, whose father is a Jew of Sephardi descent, were aided by the Jewish Agency. Anita, a music student, and her family took only four suitcases. But it wasn't hard to leave, she said, "because our house had been bombed in October 1997."

When the Fetahis arrived at Ben-Gurion Airport — one of two families to arrive that day from Yugoslavia — Anita told reporters that "after all we have gone though, we want to try and begin our lives anew here."

They rested only a few hours before being awakened to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, at the Beit Canada absorption center in Jerusalem.

An accordion player belted out "Am Yisrael Chai" and other Jewish songs at a festive reception set up in the auditorium as some 60 new immigrants awaited the prime minister.

"Many people have suffered, but no one as much as the Jewish people," Netanyahu said in Hebrew as an aide translated into Russian. The prime minister gave a brief history of the establishment of the state.

At "this holiday we celebrate the fact that we can walk free and proudly in our country," he added.

After the speech Fetahi said she felt welcomed. "This is a very warm country with warm people. It's nice to feel that someone somewhere cares about us."

Last week was the first time her family celebrated Pesach. "For the last week in Budapest we were very busy — learning everything we could about the holiday."

The Fetahis and about 40 other new immigrants from Georgia, Ukraine and Russia spent the evening singing "Chad Gadya" and sharing the seder meal with Netanyahu and his family at the Sheraton Plaza in Jerusalem.