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July 19, 1985 - Image 40

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1985-07-19

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Friday, July 19, 1985


After the ordeal: Richard
and Sue Ellen Herzberg.

The Ordeal Of
A Jewish Hostage

Richard Herzberg talks about the horror of
being on board TWA Flight 847, being
separated from his bride and singled out
because of his "Jewish name," and the
motivations of his Shi'ite captors.


Special to The Jewish News

clusive interview with Richard
Herzberg, and with wife Sue
Ellen, was conducted last week
at the Waldorf-Astoria in New
York while the Herzbergs were
recuperating from their ordeal
as hostages aboard TWA flight
847. Richard Herzberg was one
of four hostages with "Jewish-
sounding names" removed
from the plane early on, and
held separately by the radical
Shi'ite Hezbollah group.

She had to get the ring off.
"Cut off your finger if you
have to, but get it off." These
were the first words Richard
Herzberg frantically whis-
pered to his bride Sue Ellen,
as he realized TWA 847 was
being hijacked by two Arabs
just ten minutes out of
Sue Ellen's ring bore the
Hebrew inscription Ani
L'dodi V'dodi Li (I am to my
beloved, and my beloved is
mine). But they understood
that this incantation of affec-
tion would identify them as
Jews. And to these hijackers,
that could be their death
sentence. So off went the
Only moments later, the hi-
jacker at the front called for
passports, and the first he
demanded were "Eezraeli."
No one responded. So he cal-
led for "diplomats." No one
responded. Then "military
passport," which were held
by several U.S. Navy con-
struction divers. And finally

"American," which meant
dozens of passengers, in-
cluding the Herzbergs.
Married in Richard's home-
town of Norfolk, Virginia on
June 2, 33-year old Richard
and 28-year old Sue Ellen,
wanted a relaxing vacation.
They thought Israel would be
too much of a tourism chal-
lenge, so they picked the
Greek island of Corfu to do
nothing but relax.
Ironically, the Herzbergs
were scheduled to return
home June 14 on a direct
flight to Kennedy, but it was
canceled. At the last minute,
they chose to board TWA
847 to Rome, where they
could catch a connecting
flight to New York. An
Athens airport car whisked
them along the tarmac to the
waiting 727.
Ushered into first class as
an accommodation, the Herz-
bergs were excited. "It was
probably the happiest ma
ment of my life," recalls
Richard. "We were setting up
a new house and a new life.
Susie had been trying to con-
vince me to make the home
kosher. She keeps kosher,
and I don't. But I finally
Suddenly, however, sur-
vival became the issue, as
Richard and Sue Ellen faced
two Lebanese terrorists
armed with grenades, axes,
razor blades and a 9 mm
handgun. The two hijackers
immediately established their

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