Legislators Join Jewish Officials in a Solidarity Mission to Israel

A delegation of American congressmen and Jewish leaders traveled to Israel this week to demonstrate their support for the victims of last month’s terrorist attack at the Mahane Yehuda market here. During the two-day visit, which was organized by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, about a dozen legislators and Jewish leaders paid condolence calls to the bereaved families in Jerusalem and in the Arab village of Abu Ghosh. They also visited a local hospital where several of the bomb victims continue to receive treatment.

Accompanied by Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert and U.S. Ambassador Martin Indyk, the delegates met with the market’s still-traumatized shopkeepers.

Standing at the site of one of the two fatal bomb blasts, where a tarmac has replaced the destroyed roof, Indyk said the “shuk” holds a special place in the hearts of Israelis.

Speaking to a group of Arab and Jewish vendors and shoppers, Indyk said, “When I wanted to give my children a real taste of Israel during their first visit here, I brought them to this place.”

“Mahane Yehuda is the real Israel,” he added.

The American people, Indyk said, “are united in anguish and anger at this terrible event. We will fight for a secure and lasting peace for the people of Israel and the entire region, and we will win.”

Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.) vowed to “revisit and strengthen anti-terrorism legislation” passed last year in Washington. He said that the American government must provide “more money, more personnel and other resources” in the fight against terrorism.

Rep. Benjamin Gilman (R-N.Y.), chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee, took the hardest line, criticizing Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat for not cracking down on Palestinian militants.

“The question is, has Arafat truly committed himself to the path of non-violence? So far, I’m not convinced.”

Arafat, Gilman said, “must undertake unequivocal action against terrorists. Without such a commitment there can be no peace process. Arafat is facing a fork in the road and he must make a choice.”

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