Reporter's notebook: A last-minute appeal in Jerusalem

"The prime minister is there praying," the policewoman answered, without much enthusiasm or even a glance at the student who asked why they couldn't go down to the Western Wall.

September 17, 2019 17:49
1 minute read.
Reporter's notebook: A last-minute appeal in Jerusalem

PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu and his car behind two tents next to the Kotel Monday night.. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

Monday night in Jerusalem's Old City, a carnival-like atmosphere took hold. High-school trips, overseas students, tourists from around the world and vacationing Israelis jostled with the permanent residents for sidewalk space.

It almost felt like a mini-Yom Haatzmaut, but was actually a combination of Elul pilgrimages, and – with no work or school the next day – election eve breakouts.
The fast food grill joints in the Jewish Quarter were bursting with diners, and in the Muslim Quarter, the shop owners were beginning to shutter their stalls, with a few half-heartedly calling out to passersby, "Are you looking for a present?"

A few hundred meters away, just inside the security station to enter the Western Wall Plaza, a few dozen people stood on the steps heading down to the plaza, as police blocked off their access.

"Hey, why can't we go down?" one young American yeshiva student in Israel for the year asked a female police officer who was checking her cellphone.

"The prime minister is there praying," she answered, without much enthusiasm or even a glance up to the student.

"Hey, Izzy, Bibi's down there," the youth called out to his friend.

Indeed, Benjamin Netanyahu was inside one of two large blue tents set up at the Wall – his car was parked in the other.

There were occasional chants of "Bibi! Bibi!" but most of the temporarily captive pedestrians waited patiently for the prime minister to finish his Facebook Live prayer service.

His car emerged from the tent and inched its way through the plaza, then stopped as he got out. A round of cheers erupted as Netanyahu waved toward the steps and then, much to his security detail's consternation, greeted some of the worshipers who had been herded into a small area of the Wall ahead of his arrival.

Then he was gone, with the knowledge that he had done not only everything earthly possible to secure a victory in Tuesday's election, but was also backing that up with some heavenly appeal.

As the police removed the barricades, people started heading down the steps to the plaza and to their various destinations. The  American yeshiva student turned to Izzy and said, "That was cool. How about after we finish at the Wall, let's stop for a shwarma in the Jewish Quarter. It looked pretty good."

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