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by Judy Lash Balint
June 17, 2003

I had tickets for an outdoor concert last Thursday night. But out of deference for the seventeen Jerusalem families who had just buried their sons, daughters, mothers, fathers and grandmothers, all cultural events in the city were postponed until Sunday.

You would think that in a city where seventeen people had just lost their lives at the hands of a calculated homicide bomber, that people might be a little wary of gathering by the thousands in an open space. But Jerusalem is not a normal city, and Jerusalemites hardened by almost three years of anti-Jewish violence no longer have normal reactions.

Thus, almost every one of the 6,000 seats at Sultan's Pool was filled on Sunday night as young, old, baby-boomers, secular and observant gathered for an evening dedicated to the songs of Leah Goldberg.

The Pool is a large green area between Yemin Moshe and the Old City walls. After dark, with the Tower of David and the city walls illuminated, and a light cool breeze wafting through the valley, it becomes a magical place. Add music and poetry and a responsive crowd, and it just doesn't get much better.

The bleachers filled with concert-goers happy to be at an event where tickets cost 10 shekel ($2.50). The crowd included many young observant couples, some carrying infants slung over their shoulders. Families with kids of all ages, and dozens of wheelchair bound young adults tended by attentive equally young caretakers spread out just to the side of the stage.

Leah Goldberg died in 1970. Her poems have been transformed into songs that have become national classics, and most of the audience sang along with the renditions offered by more than a dozen Israeli performers. There were some well-known names among the singers, but most were talented newcomers backed by a superb group of musicians.

I found myself trying to picture an event somewhere in the Palestine Authority where 6,000 people would gather quietly to sing poetry replete with imagery of nature and peace. Hard to imagine where that might be....

The following night, thanks to a generous donation from some overseas contributors, I went with friends to a free movie showing at the Cinematheque--just across the road from Sultan's Pool. The contribution allowed five Jerusalem cultural institutions to open their doors every Monday for free. The Tower of David, Cinematheque , Khan Theater and Biblical Zoo were included. Now that's what I call a meaningful donation--helping the stressed-out and financially-strapped citizens of Jerusalem actually enjoy what their city has to offer.

The film was Luna Papa, a delightful and whimsical tale set in Uzbekistan, with English and Hebrew sub-titles.

The rainbow flags are already up in anticipation of this week's Gay Pride Parade that was postponed from last Friday. Next week the International Book Fair comes to town, followed by the International Film Festival--is it too much to hope there won't be a reason for them to be postponed?