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All In A Week
by Judy Lash Balint
Israel Insider
November 15, 2002

-How on earth did they get up there? That was the question I asked myself as I watched two IDF sharpshooters perched on the domed roof of the Porat Yosef Yeshiva overlooking the Temple Mount, last Friday, the first Friday of Ramadan.

Taking turns to train their binoculars on the mass of humanity flowing in and out of the two mosques occupying the Mount, the soldiers looked down once in a while at the hundreds of police in riot gear who waited restlessly under the hot sun of a beautiful late autumn day at the entrance to the Mughrabi Gate. Two thousand Israeli police were deployed throughout the city to ensure a peaceful conclusion to the short Friday, which did pass off without incident. Another manifestation of the amount of Israeli manpower allocated to maintaining security these days.

The intervening week has been anything but dull. The period was marked by one of the most despicable, inhuman and horrifying terror attacks at Kibbutz Metzer, in which a mother, her two young sons and two other Israelis were slaughtered in cold blood. The country gasped in collective agony as we watched the harrowing pictures and TV footage of the bereft father of the two boys.
It felt more painful this time to try to get on with life in the face of such horror--but more and more, people recognize that to make the effort to go on is a response of strength and resolve.

This was the week that the first election posters went up. Billboards and buses burst forth with touched up photos of our would-be leaders. The image of a beaming Binyamin Netanyahu floats by on one bus, while the instantly recognizable visage of Shas leader, Rav Ovadya Yosef decked out in ceremonial garments graces a nearby bus shelter.

I have to pause here to comment on a new rash of bumper stickers that make me laugh every time I catch a glimpse of one. My favorite is "Hakodesh Barukh Hu (God) We Love You." Does Hakodesh Barukh Hu really need someone to proclaim their love on a bumper sticker--wouldn't a prayer do just as well? I know the signs are in Hebrew, but is God really dishing out brownie points to those whose cars sport the stickers??

Other interesting signs spotted this week--billboards announcing the start of all-Russian broadcasts on one satellite TV channel feature a blond young man in IDF uniform, hugging a grandfatherly figure wearing a chestful of Russian war medals.

A more blatant political message has cropped up on walls all over town: "250,000 have already left for Jordan." Presumably this unsigned message was pasted up by the pro-transfer camp.

In the middle of the week a get together at a friend's nearby apartment was another of those "only in Israel" events. My host was a French-born psychologist. Her guests included a Chinese journalist working here for the Xinhua News Agency; a neighbor who's a dentist from France; a young Israeli-born couple named Galanti, where the husband's family are 10th generation Jerusalemites who trace their heritage back to the expulsion from Spain and an 85 year old historian from Lodz who came over in 1938 and whose life story mirrors the great events in Jewish history of the twentieth century. We conversed in English, in deference to Nie Xiaoyang, the Chinese reporter, who hasn't quite mastered Hebrew yet.

A visit to the hairdresser provided another high point of the week. Anthony is a friendly, teddy-bear type from Leeds. He's been living with his wife and family in the eastern Jerusalem suburb of Maaleh Adumim for many years. Anthony strikes you as a traditional type guy--he wears a small knitted black kippa and sports a neatly clipped salt and pepper beard. But the conversation we
had in his upscale central Jerusalem salon took me by surprise. Anthony recounted the joy he experienced a few weeks ago, spending Shabbat Chaye Sara in Hebron. More than 25,000 Israelis took advantage of the opportunity to show their solidarity with the City of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs, and Anthony reveled in it. He described the experience with excitement and pride in his voice, and finished off by telling me he's now decided that he will make the hour and a half round trip drive there every morning to daven in Maarat HaMachpelah (the Cave of the Patriarchs) since "that's where I connect the best..." Ever have a conversation like that with YOUR hairdresser??

Another group visiting here this week seemed to be on a spiritual high--Bridges for Peace, a Christian Zionist organization, sent 170 of the members to keep us company. I took part in a panel discussion with them on Tuesday, and it was exhilarating to feel the positive response and intense understanding of the challenges facing Israel.

And so--to another Friday. The Ramadan crowds came and went without incident on the Temple Mount again. And two soldiers spent another day watching and waiting.