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(photo credit: AP [file])
The row of black Volvos pulled up to the Western Wall plaza, which 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 inside the crevices of the ancient stones.
As cell phones rang, the photographers snapped away, and a crowd of onlookers watched from a distance.
Shortly thereafter there was be a brief statement for the press.
The smell of elections was in the crisp, rain-cleared air, the early afternoon sun pleasantly warming.
With the Likud Party vote just one 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, following 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 polls, and a message to learn from past Jewish history.
"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, while brushing aside claims by his rival that a Shalom-led Likud would 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 advisers and bodyguards were gone and the sound of prayer, which has been overshadowed for a moment by the ring of journalists and the foreign minister's entourage, returned to the Western Wall.
| Silvan Shalom was born 1958 in Tunisia, and immigrated to Israel in 1959.
He is currently foreign minister. Appointed in 2003, he replaced Binyamin Netanyahu.
He first entered the Knesset in 1992 as a Likud member, and served as finance minister from 2001 to 2003.
He achieved the rank of sergeant in the IDF and attended Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Beersheba, from which he received a BA in economics as well as CPA certification. He later attended Tel Aviv University, from which he received an LLB law degree as well as an MA in public policy.
He is married to talk-show host Judy Shalom Nir Mozes. The couple has five children and lives in Ramat Gan.|