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The Shabbat After
Life Snuffed Out on Jaffa Road
by Judy Lash Balint
June 14, 2003

I don't think it was my imagination-- the singing that welcomed the Sabbath in my synagogue this past Friday night was more spirited than usual.

In the small Jerusalem shul where I daven, many people knew several victims of the deadly #14 bus bombing. Alan Beer, 47, an immigrant from Cleveland lived in the neighborhood. Eliza Cohen, 70, was a frequent visitor to the Israel Center, where many Anglo immigrants attend classes and lectures. Genia Berman, 50, was the wife of Jay Berman, an American immigrant. And Yaffa Mualem, 65, lived just around the corner from the shul.

On the short walk to shul through the peaceful, flower-lined back streets of the German Colony, we pass others making their way to welcome the Sabbath at other synagogues. It seems that everyone is wearing a certain sadness on their face and a weariness in their eyes.

Behind the shul, on the wall of a non-descript apartment building on Yehoshofat Street that is home to the Mualem family, a black-bordered notice announces the funeral and shiva details of Yaffa Mualem, long-time resident whose husband owns the only shoe store in the neighborhood. The building is unnaturally silent, in contrast to the apartments and homes along the street, where the sounds of families gathered for Friday night may be heard.

In shul, the words of the prayers jump off the page as either descriptive of our situation or a comforting prescription. " My eyes have seen my vigilant foes, when those who would harm me rise up against me, my ears have heard their doom," writes the Psalmist.

"Arise and depart from amid the upheaval," says a verse in the central Lecha Dodi hymn. "Too long have you dwelled in the valley of weeping. He will shower compassion on you."

There's nothing that compares with walking through the streets of Jerusalem on a Friday night Even in my mixed religious/secular neighbrohood there's barely any traffic and people stroll along the middle of the road, moving aside for the occasional car to pass. Without the traffic, the scent of the flowering trees sweetens the air. With windows thrown open to take in the soft cool breezes, the sounds of conversations, kiddush and singing waft out.

But this week there are seventeen Jerusalem families who spent Shabbat in stunned silence.