El Al Monday night flew home thousands of Israelis who were stranded in Europe because of Iceland’s volcanic ash and who landed in time to celebrate modern Israel’s 62nd birthday. However, thousands of others were not able to fly home, partly because of the difficulty in finding cars to rent or space on buses and trains.

While tens of thousands of Europeans became furious at their predicament, Israel was the only country in the world to make special efforts to being its citizens home. 

In Israel, the Tourist Information Office is helping tourists find hotels in the Tel Aviv and Jerusalem areas and has produced a special booklet that includes information about local services, places of entertainment and events. One of those stranded in Israel is Quartet Middle East envoy Tony Blair, who was scheduled to fly to Britain several days ago.

The wife of one Israeli traveler, the vice president of an international company headquartered in Israel, told Israel National News that her husband landed in Israel Monday night. He went through the harrowing experience of driving overland in a rented car for 18 hours from Holland, through Germany, Switzerland and Italy in order to reach Rome, where the volcanic ash has not shut down the international airport.

He had been warned not to give up his rented car until he was sure there would be a flight. Hotel rooms were filled to capacity, and he ended up going to sleeping in his car in the wee hours of Monday morning before an El Al plane was scheduled to arrive.

However, the airline changed its plans of sending two smaller planes and instead flew a large jumbo jet in the afternoon, landing at Ben Gurion Airport as Remembrance Day for Fallen Soldiers drew to an end and Independence Day celebrations began.

Meteorologists said that it appears that the eruption from the volcano in Iceland is tapering off, and European airports are gearing up for the end of what has become an international nightmare for air travelers.

The ash column that has spread over Europe, endangering the safety of airplane engines, is less than half its original heights of nearly 30,000 feet.

However, more powerful eruptions could plunge Europe into another and even worse predicament. The shutdowns of airports have resulted in huge economic losses for airlines and for importers and exporters of produce, flowers and other foods and merchandise.