"Our strength is in our togetherness, and by one person giving strength to the other. Together is something very, very, very deep. It holds us together, to help and be helped. We all need help, you and me," said Rabbi Yerahamiel Weiss, the head of the high-school yeshiva within the Mercaz Harav complex, speaking in a loud but choking voice to hundreds of his students. Five of the high-school yeshiva's students were among the eight people murdered in last Thursday's terrorist attack.
Weiss' students' week began yesterday with visits to the wounded, visits to the bereaved, prayers and conversation. But for a moment, the controlled mourning broke out into an outburst of rage.
It happened at noon, after a meeting between the students and visiting Education Minister Yuli Tamir. Several hundred students gathered at the entrance of the yeshiva and some heckled her with cries of "criminal," "traitor," "murderer." One of the students spat in her direction, and another threw an empty bottle which struck one of her bodyguards. Tamir was rushed out of the area by guards and police.
Police said later that there are no plans to bolster security for ministers visiting the Mercaz Harav yeshiva. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had asked to visit the yeshiva later this week, but its management sent a message to his bureau saying that he would not be welcome.
While stressing that this was not a final answer, yeshiva sources said: "The inclination is to spare Olmert, and ourselves, the embarrassment."
During the meeting between around 30 yeshiva students and Tamir, the pupils complained about the insecurity they felt as a result of the attack, the government's conduct in peace talks, and the cuts in the budget for public religious education.
Tamir spoke with the students for an hour, and asked them about their feelings. "In spite of the differences of opinion, this is a difficult time in which everyone feels the love and the empathy," Tamir summed up.
Not everybody shared this feeling. Some of the students complained to the head of the yeshiva, describing Tamir's invitation to the yeshiva as "obsequious," even though most of those present said it was successful.
"In spite of the differences, the general feeling is that in these times we all need to be together. I think that it is good that the government is attentive," Shmulik, a 12th grader, said.
Weiss, the high-school yeshiva head, told Haaretz after the meeting that, "Many students feel that the political plans of the government - be it the division of Jerusalem or the evacuation of outposts, which for a significant portion of them involves personal expulsion - weigh on them greatly. Some opposed the meeting and protested, but we made it clear that every one of them thinks something different and we are very happy that the minister came here."
Aside from the outburst during the minister's visit, there was an atmosphere of restraint at the Mercaz Harav yeshiva yesterday, where there were no calls for revenge or any other outbursts. The prayer halls were filled by morning, and students crowded the areas detailing the schedules for rides to the homes of the bereaved.
On a wall, the headlines of all the major newspapers were posted.
On another wall was a warning about "a young man who is walking around the yeshiva and also visiting the wounded," and who looks like a yeshiva student. The message says that the father of one of the wounded questioned him and said that "he may be a Shin Bet agent."
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now