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Rays of Hope
by Judy Lash Balint
Israel National news Radio
February 1, 2002

Walking down Yaffo Road this morning, it's hard to believe that in the past two weeks, three Israelis were killed here and hundreds more wounded. On a beautiful sunny cool Friday morning with perfectly blue cloudless skies, central Jerusalem is struggling to regain a modicum of normality.

At the corner of King George and Yaffo, the drone of electric drills is the dominant sound. A dozens stores torn apart by last week's terror blasts are in various stages of reconstruction. The landmark "Pillar Building" is boarded up for now, with anxious shopkeepers consulting with their contractors outside.

Despite news reports to the contrary, there are plenty of people about. Most have an air of defiance about them, as they wander about between the hundreds of soldiers, police, border patrol and SWAT team personnel who have moved in to make Israelis feel more secure. A few older, well-dressed women walk arm in arm window shopping. The beggars have taken back their normal posts. In Zion Square a brand new, state of the art mobile police van is parked stubbornly on the pedestrian mall, sporting a full sized X-ray machine for all to see.

I meet a friend at the Hillel cafe, one of my regular coffee hang-outs. We have to wait in line for our order behind half a dozen people. Sitting outside basking in the warm February sunshine, we have front row seats at the IDF checkpoint on Helena Hamalka, the side street leading east toward the Russian Compound and eastern Jerusalem. The spot checks of cars and their occupants is quick and efficient but thorough. We see a few vehicles turned inside out as the young soldiers call in reinforcements to watch the driver and check his papers as they make a painstaking, fine toothcomb examination of the car.

There are sales at every store in the downtown area. Those in the core where there is more foot traffic don't have it quite so bad, despite being at ground zero for terror attacks. It's those a little further up on Yaffo, or on the side streets who are really hurting.

But it is heartening to see thousands of Jerusalemites who are making a concerted, courageous effort to keep the city ticking over.

A few solidarity missions are here this week too. During the course of the week, I run into rabbinic aquaintances from two Los Angeles orthodox shuls and a group from a number of synagogues in White Plains. They stand out as they walk around town in their American casual style clothes and easy-going manner, and people stop to acknowledge their presence.

Last night at a small meeting, I experienced another ray of hope. A band of serious students at Hebrew University came over to a friend's apartment to explain their mission. The four well-spoken, mid twenties lads, are intense and focused. Last year they formed a student group named Tachlit to try to combat the post Zionist onslaught emanating from the campus. Three out of the four are bare headed, one wears a kippa. All have completed army service and have a strong sense of vision for Israel's future. They are appalled by the damage done by professors who denigrate Zionism. The group points out that these tenured professors have far more ongoing influence in Israeli society than any politician. Certainly Arik Sharon has at best, a few years left to make his mark, but the unelected but tenured professors will serve as cultural icons for an entire generation of students. Most of them will serve the university for at least twenty years, and their writings will leave a lasting legacy. Hebrew U students, in turn, will be the future leaders of the country, so it's vital that they be weaned from the extremist philosophies promoted by many in the liberal arts and social science faculties.

The students laid out their plan of action and asked for support and understanding. It was a much needed shot in the arm to be in the presence of these committed, sophisticated young Israelis dedicated to the pursuit of truth and the preservation of a strong Israel.