Throughout the weekend, dozens of well-wishers trekked to the outlying Hadassah-University Hospital from across the country in a show of support for Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
Already at the hospital, sheltering beneath rather fragile open-walled tents, was a sprawl of local and overseas TV crews, the piles of empty pizza boxes testifying to their lengthy presence.
One of the youngest in the crowd of well-wishers, four-year old Oren Goren, made the trip with his parents from Herzliya to deliver a painting he had drawn for the prime minister with get well wishes written on it.
"I want the prime minister to get well; that he should get his appetite back and be able to eat and drink again," said Goren, who on a news-less Saturday afternoon quickly became a media star for the TV crews.
As Sharon's two sons, family members and closest advisers remained closeted inside the heavily-guarded hospital and scores of foreign reporters made their hourly reports to television stations around the world, passersby stopped to offer their prayers, casting their eyes towards the seventh floor where Sharon was being treated.
"Would that he recover as fast as possible," said Jerusalem resident Channi Nachmucha, 20, who spent Shabbat at the hospital praying for Sharon.
"Even if he will not be able to return to his position as prime minister, his very recovery would be a source of pride and strength to the people of Israel," she said.
As throughout Sharon's illness, rumors abounded among the media. Some even made it on air.
One had it that the doctors had been ready to disconnect the prime minister from his life-support systems, having abandoned all hope of his making a recovery, but were dissuaded from doing so by Sharon's relatives. This was categorically denied by hospital officials.
Another was that the prime minister's death would be announced as soon as Shabbat was over.
That, too, proved unfounded as night fell and the hospital's director-general, Prof. Shlomo Mor-Yosef, emerged to give his guardedly optimistic assessment of the prime minister's condition.
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