Jerusalem Diaries: In Tense Times / Edition 2

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Jerusalem Diaries - in tense times is a compelling and moving account of life in Israel today. In a series of vignettes written during the tumultuous period of November 1998 to May 2001, author and Jerusalem resident Judy Lash Balint travels to the very heart of Israel. From embattled Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip, to the home of the grieving family of a victim of the Ramallah lynching incident. From the barricades in Gilo under Arab fire, to the gas mask stations where Israeli citizens queue to collect their lifesaving equipment. These vivid descriptions piece together a stirring portrait of a people struggling to maintain normal lives in the most abnormal of settings.
Balint succeeds where the evening news and the most sophisticated media technologies fail. She chronicles the everyday existence of ordinary citizens, whose lives have been irrevocably altered by extraordinary events. The result is an absorbing and enriching account of a nation and a country weathering a rough and relentless storm.
Judy Lash Balint has published articles in the Christian Science Monitor, Jerusalem Post, The Forward, Seattle Times, Moment Magazine, The Jerusalem Report, Midstream, London Jewish Chronicle and numerous US Jewish weeklies. She lives in Jerusalem.
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Editorial Reviews

Alexander, Jerusalem
People who rely on the New York Times and Washington Post, or...the British press for their sense of what is happening in Israel will discover, in reading this book, that they have been walking about blindfolded.
Jerusalem Post
Goss, Eileen
Jerusalem Diaries - In tense times provides a fascinating glimpse of life in Israel and has many lessons Americans can take to heart.
Jewish Community News, San Jose, California
Kaplan, Sybel
She is straightforward and honest and reveals to the reader the truth behind what CNN, the New York Times and other anti-Israel, biased publications dish out to the unsuspecting public. If you want an insider's view of what day-to-day life is like, especially from the perspective of a female journalist in Jerusalem, here is an example of good writing.
The Kansas City Jewish Chronicle
Balint, a Jerusalem-based journalist, offers 55 diary-like commentaries on life in Israel between November 1998 and May 2001, as Israelis struggled to keep functioning under the intense pressures of terrorism inflicted on their citizenry. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9789652292711
  • Publisher: Gefen Publishing House
  • Publication date: 8/1/2001
  • Edition description: Updated
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 222
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.60 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Read an Excerpt

In the Shadow of Death Jerusalem,
December 2, 2001

After a week when funeral followed funeral, last night’s terror attack on the youth of Jerusalem was too much to take.

Everyone knows that it’s the kids who are out in the cafes of downtown Jerusalem at 11:30 p.m. on a Saturday night. The corner of Ben Yehuda Street where the first two explosions pierced the night was home to a popular ice cream store and a dairy restaurant under strict mehadrin kashrut supervision. The terrorist maniacs blew themselves up in the midst of groups of young people out to celebrate a birthday party. What kind of political statement is that?

This morning’s newspaper headlines said it all: “The whole country is terror,” writes Yediot columnist Roni Shaked. Chaim Shibi’s column runs under the heading: “Life in the shadow of death.” Indeed, it’s becoming increasingly difficult not to feel that we’re all living under that shadow.

At home in Old Katamon last night, the sounds of terror penetrated the windows shuttered against the cold of a December evening. First, at around 11 p.m., the now familiar dull thuds of shelling and return fire could be heard from the direction of Gilo. Not forty-five minutes later, the wailing sirens of scores of ambulances broke in to the north and east of the neighborhood. Soon, the phone started ringing with calls from friends and family in the States who heard about the horror just as Shabbat was ending in New York.

Local and international TV crews broadcast live from the Ben Yehuda scene, a mere 10 minutes away. Watching the third detonation, a car filled with explosives and mortar shells, turn Rav Kook Street into a fireball, it was hard not to recall the images of New York on September 11. Rescue workers could be seen running for their lives up Jaffa Road as the fireball engulfed the side street. Dark smoke billowed up into the sky from the small street lined with historic buildings.

The TV coverage went on into the night, but my alarm was set for 4:45 a.m. to take a visiting friend to the airport for an early morning flight back to the States. Neither of us needed the alarm, however, as the evening’s images were not conducive to sleep. Driving through the deserted Jerusalem streets and along the quiet Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway, we made it to the airport in little more than half an hour.

Instead of turning around and heading home to mournful Jerusalem, I decide to go on to Tel Aviv for a walk on the beach to try to erase some of the images of the night. The full moon still shines in the sky over the Mediterranean as the winter waves lap the soft sand. A few lone walkers and runners stride close to the shore, paying little attention to the hardy, older Russians who may be seen taking their morning swim in the bracing water.

Planes bank low overhead, flying in and out of nearby Ben Gurion airport, as if all were normal. But today, Israel is far from normal. Walking south on the beach, it’s impossible to avoid the Dolphinarium. Once a lively nightspot, all that remains is a triangular stone memorial at the site where 21 young revelers lost their lives six short months ago. The motto inscribed on the stone in English, Hebrew and Russian could just as well be read as an epitaph for last night’s victims in Jerusalem. “In memory of innocent citizens. Among them many youngsters whose lives were cut off by murderers in a bloody terror attack on Friday night, June 1, 2001. May they rest in peace.” Fresh flowers and wreaths adorn the site where the victim’s families and survivors gather every Friday morning for mutual support.

Just across the street to the north is the anonymous gray concrete building housing the American embassy. Security guards lounge on the white trucks strategically parked to block the entrances. A new guardhouse is under construction to further scrutinize incoming visitors.

All along the beach, people go about their morning tasks listlessly, laboring under the shadow of the endless parade of death. The owner of one of the cafe/bars that sits on the sand looking out over the sea pulls tables and chairs out from under their overnight cover and stares distractedly off into the horizon. As the sun rises over the city to the east, casting a warm hue over the water, there’s none of the lively anticipation of another beautiful day at the beach that would accompany a cafe proprietor in Miami Beach.

As the traffic starts to build, I leave the beach in search of one of the new Starbucks cafes opened in Tel Aviv a few weeks ago. I find it across the street from another painful site. It’s at 70 Ibn Gvirol Street. The outdoor tables look out at the spot on Kikar Rabin where Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated in 1995. Inside, the few patrons who can afford a $3 cup of coffee are exchanging comments on the Jerusalem tragedy.

Driving back to Jerusalem, I can’t resist turning on the radio for the news. I’m holding my breath waiting for the names of last night’s victims to be announced. Instead, there’s a bulletin about another attack near the southern community of Alei Sinai. One man is dead, several injured. This is where a young couple was murdered two months ago when terrorists broke into the village and went on a killing rampage. The father of one of the youngsters, Liron Harpaz, is interviewed. I’m listening to his pained words just as we pass the Har Hamenuchot cemetery at the outskirts of Jerusalem, where fresh graves are being prepared for last night’s victims.

The radio anchor reads off a few of the faxes listeners have sent in. They all voice similar sentiments: Let the IDF get on with it. We’ve had enough.

I can’t help thinking about a pamphlet I read over Shabbat. It was found in a second hand bookstore here by a friend. It’s a small item published in 1919 by the Central Office of the Zionist Organization in England, entitled: A Report on the Pogroms in Poland. In its 36 pages the author describes in detail, community by community, the extent of the pogroms that spread across Galicia in 1918. Synagogues defiled, women raped, Jews murdered. A Jewish Self- Defense Corps of one thousand men was formed, the author notes, but they were quickly disarmed and disbanded by the Polish military authorities, leaving millions of Jews defenseless against the base hatred of their neighbors.

How much have we progressed, I wonder? Today we have a Jewish army, reputed to be one of the best in the world, yet its hands seem to be tied, and it is rendered powerless to protect the citizens it is charged to defend. I’m sure the Zionist Organization of 1919 could never have imagined such a scenario—Jews being murdered in the Jewish state because they are Jews, despite the presence of a strong Jewish army. Everyone acknowledges the large number of attacks that have been foiled by good IDF, police and intelligence work, but the specter of Jewish power restrained as the daily murder toll climbs is still too much to bear.

Arriving home, there are more calls to make to friends to find out if everyone’s OK. The next radio bulletin: another bus bomb in Haifa. At least16 dead, 40 injured this time, 17 in critical condition.

Now the names of the victims of the Jerusalem attack are released:

• Yuri Kurganov, 20 years old.

• Yosef Elezra, 18 years old.

• Moshe Yedid Levy, 19 years old.

• Golan Tourjeman, 15 years old.

• Assaf Avitan, 15 years old.

• Nir Heftzdi, 19 years old.

• Michael Moshe Dahan, 20 years old.

• Adam Weinstein, 14 years old.

• Guy Vaknin, 19 years old.

• Yisrael Yakov Danino, 17 years old.

May their memories be for a blessing. The friends who watched them die will live forever under the shadow of death.

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Table of Contents

Is Real Security at Hand for Israelis? 9
Wake Up Call 12
Rachel Still Weeps 16
Stepping Off the Roller Coaster 18
Gas Masks Back in the Closet? 21
Golan Rally Sends Strong Message to Ehud Barak . 24
Winter Time Jerusalem Observations 27
Mourning? Not Me, Not Yet 29
Har Habayit B’Yadeynu (The Temple Mount is in Our Hands)       31
Millennium Countdown 34
Inside Orient House 36
Jerusalem Reclamation 39
Bet Lechem 41
Off Limits 44
The Rally That Came Too Late 46
Dor Hemshech (The Continuing Generation) 49
An Israeli Museum Becomes Politically Correct 52
Letter from the Gaza Strip 55
Shabbat with the Sharanskys 59
All in a Jerusalem Day 63
Face of the New Mideast War 65
Day of Rage 68
Erev Yom Kippur 70
It Goes On 73
Peeling Potatoes 78
Condolence Call 80
Communities Under Siege 83
Simchat Torah and the War in Gilo 87
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 29, 2011

    Powerful Essays on Conflict In Israel 2000-2001

    Jerusalem Diaries: In Tense Times by Judy Lash Balint
    "Jerusalem Diaries In Tense Times" is a very important book. It captures the very heart and spirit of the Jewish population of Israel and helps readers understand why the city of Jerusalem and the land of Israel is so holy to these people. Author Judy Lash Balint writes in many short vignettes about the state of violence and terrorism during the years 2000 and 2001 in this divided country. She has such wisdom and insight and with great skill she describes and reveals a picture of life in both religious and nonreligious communities. We learn how truly devoted to the cause of settlement in this area the Jews are and how they are committed to residing in their Holy Land, even if they have to sacrifice their lives.

    It is difficult to read about the many deaths of innocent Jewish civilians who live in towns close to Arab communities, especially the slaughter of school children and a ten month old child. Balint makes the reader realize just how volatile the problem is and now in the year 2011 not much has changed. Still there are bombs exploding and killing innocent people and still there is no peaceful solution reached between Jews and Palestinians.

    This book is not an easy read but it does help to explain the political background of the leaders at this time. Readers will better understand just how the lives of the Jewish and Palestinian people are impacted by decisions made by those in charge. Balint explains the feeling of the Jewish people best when she says the following: "Underlying the anxiety, fear, sadness and despondency, there's a spirit of defiance and sense of destiny that sustains those living through these hard times". She quotes a resident, Shani Simkowitz of Tekoa who says, "People have to realize that this is not a "settler" problem, it's a Jewish problem, and they better realize we have finally come home and we're choosing to stay."

    If you are interested in Jewish history, in the Arab/Israeli conflict this book offers yet another perspective and a glance backward during a time of extraordinary challenges to the population of Israel. It's a book worth reading.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 17, 2003

    Jerusalem- an insider's view

    This work is a sympathetic and factually accurate account of what Israel has been going through since the Barak peace offer was refused by the Arafat-led Palestinians. It tells a story which is by and large ignored by a world- media biased against Israel. It gives real attention to the stories of the true victims of the violence,innocent citizens of Israel murdered by Palestinian terrorists, among whom are fanatical suicide - bombers. The writing here is precise and accurate. This work too shows just how Israeli governments have tried to deal with the terrorism, showing at times hesitancy and almost inhuman restraint, before finally acting to try and break the terror. This work is highly recommended for anyone who wants to have a real idea of what Israeli society has been, and is still going through in its struggle against Arab rejectionism and terror.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 9, 2002

    Essential, moving stories ignored by CNN, BBC, Sky et al...

    Judy Lash Balint reveals an extremely moving side to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict seldom seen through the cameras of CNN, Sky, the BBC or any other Western media outlet for that matter. Judy Balint reveals the side of a victim long forgotten by the media. The author presents the oft-ignored story of the innocent Jewish/Israeli victims of the Palestinian terrorist war. The innocent victims whose lives have been shattered and whose bodies have been battered and wounded through gut-less suicide bombings and other terror attacks aimed squarely at babes, children, teenagers, fathers and brothers, sisters and mothers, nearly all of whom have just been going about their daily lives like you or I, with no evil intent or political extremism. Whilst we have all witnessed the aforementioned media sources devoting whole reports to the plight, claims and circumstances of Palestinian terrorist organisations and even many individual Palestinian suicide attackers, rarely does the Jewish victim receive any publicity, which is why this book is so important. Judy Balint reveals the story of an Israeli civilian population under siege of Palestinian terrorism, where just visiting a public area such as a café, restaurant, cinema, disco, shopping mall or travelling on a bus is enough to place one's life at risk due to the threat of wholesale, indiscriminate terrorist attacks. The author's words show the underlying fear and frustration of those who must live under this deliberately imposed horror by a neighbouring population that, through it's leader Yasser Arafat, does not even recognise their very right to exist or their ancient claims to their homeland of Israel. Reading these words, one can feel what it must be like to have to send your own children of tender years to school in armoured school-buses under escort, never knowing if they will arrive or return safely. The author's distress is clearly evident when she describes that even after fifty years of Israeli statehood, Israel still has to justify it's existence in a land that has belonged to the Jewish people for thousands of years. A claim to the Land that precedes and predates any Palestinian and indeed any Arab/Moslem claim to the territory. A Jewish claim that extends back through history for some 4,000 years and based upon a Biblical heritage which has yet to be and indeed cannot be rescinded. Judy Balint provides through 55 essays a fact often quoted elsewhere. That although being unsuccessful on the battlefield in destroying & terrorising the Jewish people, Palestinian/Arab & other terrorist entities can terrorise 1,000 by killing one person and by killing civilians they can terrify people and the public at large far more effectively than when engaged in a full scale war. A fact that we too have since experienced in the West since `September 11th'. The author's frustration is clearly evident as she passes comment on the moves of various Israeli governments towards peace and the concessions which have brought only more violence. In exchange for land, Israel did not get peace, it got suicide bombers, suicide machine gunners, drive-by terrorists, snipers, mortar bombs, car bombs, fire bombs, grenades, booby traps, explosive packages, remote controlled explosives, forest fires, lynching, and kids bludgeoned to death. Israel also got a few staged arrests and revolving prison doors. Attention is frustratingly paid here to the indisputably unbalanced coverage of this conflict provided by the BBC/CNN et al., where despite repeated factual and accurate complaints having been made against this principle, basic rules of media objectivity are still ignored. Any reference to Palestinian terrorists being downplayed to the usage of lesser terms of `militants', `extremists' or `activists'. The `T' word being purposely ignored in a conscious decision not to show Palestinian terrorist barbarity. These views might seem extreme in themselves, but they are deeply felt in isol

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