The first hours of March 11, 1978 were unusually stormy off the South Lebanon coast. Into the teeth of the foul weather, 13 Palestinians launched a small vessel in the dark waters near Sidon. Several miles from shore, they transferred to a pair of rubber dinghies and headed south toward the Israel coast. Along the way, one of the crafts sunk, drowning two of its occupants.
Undeterred, the survivors squeezed into the remaining dinghy and continued, finally landing in a mid-afternoon drizzle at a nature preserve near Kibbutz Ma'agan Michael, about 35 miles north of Tel Aviv.
The Palestinians moved inland from the beach. They had planned on landing closer to Tel Aviv and had not a clue where they were. But good fortune lay just ahead. For also at Ma'agan Michael that afternoon was Gail Rubin, a New York City-born nature photographer. She was stalking rare birds at one of her favorite haunts.
The Palestinians approached her. The lone woman among them, Beirut social worker Dalal Mughrabi, asked the way to the capital.
A reporter later wrote of Rubin: "It was probably the New Yorker in her that provided them with thorough directions."
Route in hand, the Palestinians were prepared to hike up to the Haifa-Tel Aviv road. First, Dalal Mughrabi had some unfinished business. She raised an AK-47 assault rifle and pointed it at Gail Rubin.