Ultra-religious rock-throwers shatter peaceful Shabbat by Nechemia Meyers

We were there to attend the Eighth International Conference of the Jewish Media. In the absence of formal sessions on Shabbat, we went to visit an art exhibition and have lunch with some friends.

On our return to the Hyatt Hotel, a rock hurled by a young ultra-religious Jew smashed our front windshield. Had it been thrown with greater velocity, it probably would have caused me to lose control of the steering wheel. I'm sure we would have gotten into a deadly collision.

This event occurred on controversial Bar-Ilan Street, which we would probably have avoided had we been Jerusalem residents. When we suddenly realized where we were, however, it was too late to turn back.

At that point, I told my wife not to worry because — according to a compromise reached after many clashes — it was agreed that the street would be closed during morning and evening Sabbath prayers. Otherwise, it would remain open. And since it wasn't prayer time, nothing, I assured her, would happen to us.

I was dead wrong.

After the incident, we went, of course, to the police. They were very nice, but told us that there had been other victims of ultra-religious Jews that day and that nothing could be done about the situation.

This event made me skeptical of the remarks Rabbi Michael Melchior, minister for Israeli society and diaspora, made at the conference. Melchior expressed his belief that the present conflict over religious questions can be resolved and that he is certainly making every effort to achieve that goal.

But it is hard for me to believe that he can influence the Jewish rock-throwers in Jerusalem and the politicians who protect them.

In contrast, the city's Arab rock-throwers are nowhere in evidence. As a result, tourism is booming. Sharing the Hyatt Hotel with the Jewish journalists were hundreds of overseas visitors. The streets of the Old City were as crowded as they were in the heady days immediately after the 1967 Six-Day War.

This avalanche of people has clearly brought prosperity to the Arab merchants in the area, who have every reason to hope that tranquility will continue to prevail.

Whether it does, however, depends not on them but on an agreement between Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, which doesn't seem to be in the offing. And even if the Jews and the Arabs do reach some sort of modus vivendi, there will remain the conflict between Orthodox and non-Orthodox Jews.

The problem is symbolized for me by my two windshields.

My back windshield, very much intact, features a sticker with two young men — one with a kippah and one bareheaded — with the slogan: "We must get along with one another."

But my smashed front windshield shows how hard it will be to make that slogan come true.