shalom pensive 298.88.
(photo credit: AP [file])
The row of black Volvos which pulled up to the Western Wall plaza was ringed by a crowd of photographers and security agents.
Donning a black skullcap, Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom walked briskly to the Wall, where he put a small note in the crevices of the ancient stones.
As cell phones rang and photographers snapped away, a crowd of onlookers watched from a distance.
In a minute or two, there would be a short statement for the press.
The smell of elections was in the crisp rain-cleared air, the early-afternoon sun of an autumn-like day pleasantly warming.
With the Likud Party primary vote just a day away and Silvan Shalom running an increasingly close second behind frontrunner Binyamin Netanyahu in the polls, the made-for-the-media visit to the Western Wall was conspicuously geared for hawkish Likud voters in the wake of recent reports that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon will agree to cede Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem to the Palestinians as part of a final peace agreement.
There was the de rigueur statement about a united Jerusalem and a call for unity in the badly-fractured Likud Party, which is expected to lose as much as three-fourths of its strength, according to the general elections polls.
"I think that especially in this place, it is forbidden to talk about splits. We have seen what rifts and disagreement have caused the nation of Israel in the past: the destruction [of the temples] and a two-thousand-year exile of the Jewish people [from their homeland]," he said.
Shalom added that he was "saddened" to hear reports that his chief rival may quit the party in case of an upset in Monday's party vote.
"I am sorry we have undergone a split in the party of late, and now there is talk of another split," he said, concomitantly brushing aside claims by his rival that a Shalom-led Likud will simply be a satellite of Sharon's centrist Kadima Party.
"My goal is to unite everyone so that there will be no more divisions," he added.
A minute or two later, the foreign minister and his circle of advisors and bodyguards were gone and the sound of prayer, which was overshadowed for a moment by the noise of journalists and the foreign minister's entourage, returned to the Western Wall.