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Where in the World?
by Judy Lash Balint
Israel National News radio commentary
June 20, 2001

Where in the world do 7,000 people turn out for the opening of one of the best international film festivals, filling the bleachers of an ancient garden to view a light-hearted satire on a huge screen under the stars? Where can you watch an exuberant fireworks display over the walls of one of the world's most venerable cities?

Where would you spend a leisurely Friday morning wandering in a quaint neighborhood choosing between an assortment of street side cafes for your rendezvous with friends on this first day of the weekend? Where could you hear the lively sounds of Honduran street musicians playing to an appreciative, relaxed crowd in a little square near the center of town? Where do you wake up every morning to sunshine and bright bougainvillea?

Where do you have trouble choosing from the array of fine restaurants to suit every taste and level of kashrut? Where do you have difficulty figuring out how to listen to two or three world-class lecturers who happen to be speaking on the same evening? Where can you attend an international conference on any topic of Jewish interest almost every day of the week? Where do the world's most renowned rabbis and teachers give classes every night of the week?

Where do Jewish kids dance till the wee hours at discos all over the city? Where could you sit in on a radio show to listen to Bibi Netanyahu being interviewed in English? Where are some of the world's most precious Jewish artifacts housed? Where is there a zoo that identifies the animals of the Bible? Where could you go shopping in a cool, underground arcade used by shoppers thousands of years ago? Where do you make friends with Jews from every corner of the globe? Where could you witness the largest gathering of Jewish athletes in the world? The list could go on and on...

The only place in the world where all these things are happening is right here in the middle of the CNN/BBC/NPR-designated war zone. Jerusalem, capital of the Jewish state, just minutes away from where Jews are being attacked and murdered daily, is a vibrant center of Jewish cultural, social and educational life.

That's a message we need to convey to Jews abroad--come and enjoy the unique opportunities Jerusalem has to offer.

On the other hand, we citizens of the holy city must struggle with the fine line between going about our work and social/cultural lives even in the face of the mounting Jewish death toll and becoming too accustomed and even inured to the ghastly results of the Arab war against the Jews.

As the violence wears on towards its one-year anniversary, it looks like a reality we'll continue to face.