Jerusalem: Sitting in a converted bomb shelter in the basement of the hotel at the Ramat Rachel Kibbutz here, about 40 American Jewish college students are sharing their anxiety.
Like a group therapy session, they talk about their frustration, fear and anger over the recent rising levels of anti-Israel and anti-Jewish sentiments on their campuses by pro-Palestinian activists, as violence continues unabated in the Middle East.
It has been almost a year since a suicide bomber stood in line outside the Dolphinarium disco in Tel Aviv and blew himself up along with 21 Israelis, almost all teenage girls. Leanora Bachar, a social worker who rushed to care for the families of victims that night, still gets emotional when she thinks about it.
"I actually heard the blast," Bachar said. "I live fairly close and my house shook, so I knew it was a bomb."
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, widely regarded as a successful military strategist, displayed his political acumen this week when he turned a stunning defeat of his emergency economic package by the Knesset into a victory not only for the package but also for his political career.
"Sharon became a real hero," said Mordechai Kedar, a professor at Bar-Ilan University. "And he is now very high in the polls."
Palestinian President Yasir Arafat came under increasing internal pressure this week to implement structural changes in the Palestinian Authority, but many Israeli leaders and analysts dismissed any chance that the kind of reforms demanded by the United States and Israel would be forthcoming.
In 1969, Israel announced a major project to document the potential billions of dollars in lost property that belonged to the estimated 850,000 Jews who fled or were forced to leave their native Arab countries because of persecution after the creation of the Jewish state.
But the project was quickly abandoned.
James Besser |
Officials in Washington and Jerusalem have embraced it with enthusiasm, but the international peace conference tentatively scheduled for early summer may be intended more as a diplomatic stop-gap than a great diplomatic leap.
“My inclination is to believe it’s a mirage,” said Daniel Pipes, president of the Middle East Forum and a leading critic of the Oslo peace talks. “Nobody really believes in it, but everybody is supporting it in order to look good.”