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Day of the Knitted Kipot
by Judy Lash Balint
Israel National News radio commentary
May 21, 2001

Last year we celebrated Jerusalem Day under the threat of the Barak/ Clinton plan that would have hacked off chunks of the eastern flank of the city and given them over to Arafat control. One can only shudder to think of the devastating effects had such a move been actualized.

Today, the day commemorating the 34th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem, was observed by a shrinking portion of the population.

Whether because of security fears, apathy, or the general malaise which has Israelis increasingly in its grip, the celebration of Yom Yerushalayim today was observed mainly by the national religious community.

This was apparent at events all over the city: the "To Jerusalem With Love" concert last night at Hechal Shlomo; the walking tours all over the city; this morning's march of the Temple Faithful through eastern Jerusalem; the crowd viewing the exhibits and trenches at Ammunition Hill; the parade of flags later in the day that brought thousands of youth to the capital; the festive evening concert at the Kotel--all had one thing in common. The clear majority of those taking part were observant. This was the day of the knitted kipa.

It seems that secular Israelis have tired of expressions of nationalism. But for the tens of thousands who did turn out to celebrate today, it was a welcome opportunity to publicly reaffirm their commitment to the capital of the Jewish people, as well as to let loose a little.

A poll released today showed nearly seven out of 10 Israelis "very
worried" by the country's security plight, and more than six out of ten convinced
that a new Middle East war is near.

Today's events went off with no serious security problems. The thousands of youngsters who stayed up most of the night singing and dancing at Yeshivat Beit Orot walked down to the Kotel in the early morning without incident.

Gershom Solomon's small band of Temple Faithful marched down Route #1 to the PA's Jerusalem headquarters, Orient House, where they met vociferous, but peaceful Palestinian opposition.

Tens of thousands white-shirted, flag-bearing teenagers flooded the closed off streets of central Jerusalem singing and dancing, as they made their way to the Kotel. Hundreds of police, border patrol and IDF kept a close watch on their progress.

Arab stores in the Old City market were tightly shuttered as waves of people flooded down the ancient alleys toward the Wall. Passing quickly through the security barriers, they joined the huge party that filled almost every corner of the Kotel plaza.

From my vantage point on the balcony of an apartment overlooking the plaza, the view was awe inspiring. The mechitza separating men from women had been extended to the back of the plaza, and behind it, thousands of teens formed a mass of joyful exuberance. Waving Israeli flags, some jumped up and down to the lively music, while others formed graceful, vibrant circles of dancers.

The voice of Natan Sharansky rang out over the throng as he urged Jews to unite to protect Jerusalem.

Tonight, the amplified voice of prayer broadcasting from the Temple Mount was ours, not that of the muezzin heard five times a day. The huge, orderly crowd was our kids celebrating a seminal event in modern Jewish history, not hundreds of cousins who stream out of the Al Aksa mosque every Friday to hurl stones at Jews below.

In the Jewish Quarter the cafes were brimming with customers. The main square was packed with people enjoying a respite from the tension-filled moments of the past months.

Too bad secular Israel wasn't there to share in the moment.