Kollek Demonstrates City’s Safety by Holding a Meeting in Arab Area

Mayor Teddy Kollek confronted the escalating violence in Jerusalem by holding a leisurely meeting with his aides Monday at an Arab coffee shop near Damascus Gate, in the heart of the Old City.

The 79-year-old mayor invited the news media to help make his point that the security situation in the capital is not as grave as some outsiders believe and that Jews should have no qualms about entering Arab neighborhoods.

“I want to set a personal example, so that people will once again visit here like before,” Kollek told the reporters and camera crews who surrounded him.

Although the coffee shop is only a few hundred yards from City Hall, very few Jews now venture this far into the Old City — for good reason it would seem.

Some have been attacked in the narrow alleyways. Jewish-owned cars parked on Saladin Street, the main thoroughfare of East Jerusalem, have been set on fire. And for the first time in months, riots have broken out in Arab suburbs.

The fact that reporters found it newsworthy for the mayor to be sitting in an Arab cafe was itself an indication of the tension in the city.

Kollek spoke to them little more than 12 hours after a bomb exploded near a crowded western Jerusalem shopping mall Sunday evening, slightly injuring three people, including a 4-year-old girl.

It was the most serious incident in Jerusalem since a bomb killed one Israeli and wounded 10 people in the Machaneh Yehuda outdoor market on May 28.

Kollek admitted “there is reason to be afraid, but it is exaggerated. We don’t run away every time there is a little fear.”

He observed that tension between Jews and Arabs in the city cannot be eradicated, but can be reduced. The mayor noted that he came without his bodyguard.

Reporters pointed out that Kollek is an exception and that not every Jew can visit the Old City with impunity these days. Kollek responded that, in fact, he is a prime target for a terrorist act, since he is the symbol of Jerusalem’s reunification under Jewish rule.

Nevertheless, the mayor said he felt completely safe.

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