Shalom Makes Primary Pilgrimage to Wall

Yoav Stern
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Yoav Stern

The worshipers on the women's side of the partition at the Western Wall craned their necks to see who the VIP was who was putting a note in between the cracks on the other side.

"Silvan Shalom? There are poor people here, they were robbed. Don't forget them later, don't just worry about your job," an invisible female said from the other side. Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom's Likud handlers moved her away - she was getting in the way of the photographer.

"He won't forget. Quiet! Quiet!" one of the entourage said to her.

Shalom began his day at the Wall, where he was greeted by boisterously enthusiastic Likud workers, who had arrived ahead of time. He was brought by the rabbi in charge of the site to a corner near the women's section. Worshipers were moved to make room for him - and mainly the attendant cadres of journalists - to allow him to reach the stones of the holy wall.

Shalom uttered a silent prayer and then turned to the difficult task of finding a crack in which to place his note. "He's going to be prime minister, surely he can find a place for his note - sure he will," one activist said.

The visit to the Western Wall had two aims: to underline Shalom's connection to religious tradition, and to make a political statement about his personal relationship with Jerusalem.

"There are politicians who talk about Jerusalem only on the eve of elections. But Jerusalem has been `above my highest joy' [a reference to Psalm 137] since I was born."

Shalom reiterated the familiar slogan about the indivisibility of the capital, but some passersby were not convinced.

"The Likud is to blame for the expulsion from Gush Katif!" one woman said. "Go away! There's nothing for you here, Silvan. Traitor to the Jewish people!" a man said. Both were hustled away by well-trained party people before the cameras noticed them.

Shalom seemed sure of victory yesterday. He conserved his strength, visiting only the Western Wall and the city of Lod. The evening was dedicated to media interviews. According to his aides, his belief in the ability to win today's Likud primaries stems from the support of the grass roots.

"The grass roots are with him," one party central committee member declared. "Twenty-six out of 30 committee members in the [Lod] branch are with Silvan. Bibi (MK Benjamin Netanyahu) came here and was driven out. The situation is similar in Ramle, and it was never like this before."

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