- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 30, 1999

JERUSALEM "Bobby Bible," a 60-year-old Los Angeles resident whose "Jesus Saves from Sin and Hell" T-shirt slogan stands out even on this city's colorful streets, is a man with a plan.
Come New Year's Eve, he's renting out a church on the Mount of Olives for religious services as the clock strikes midnight for the benefit of curious Christian pilgrims who are filling local hotels.
"The world's looking at that site," he said, brandishing an olive wood cross and a 'prophecy study' Bible. "I think we ought to take advantage of it."
He has had threats stemming from his in-your-face evangelistic techniques, hence the assumed name. "Bobby" is one of the more colorful American visitors in town for the coming of the millennium and he makes no bones about his plans to win converts.
"I'm going to come here and say, 'Yes, Jesus,' " he said.
But when he showed up at Bethlehem's Manger Square just before Christmas, with Bible in hand, nervous Palestinian police took him aside and grilled him for 10 hours.
"They wanted to know if I was going to blow up a mosque, jump off somewhere or commit suicide," he said. "I looked like I could be a problem. Then they took me to my hotel, searched my room and told me to get out."
Once he was back in Jerusalem, Israeli police also questioned him. Police will be fidgety all week, as Jerusalem specifically the Mount of Olives is typically viewed as ground zero for any messianic activity.
But the city will not be filled to capacity. Jerusalem had originally planned for some 60,000 tourists to be in town this week, but counts are down, despite the balmy weather. Now the number is closer to 40,000, a government tourist office spokeswoman said.
While desiring the tourist dollars, city officials are discouraging anything overt on New Year's Eve, which will be a volatile mix of the coming of the year 2000, possible computer problems associated with it and hundreds of thousands of Muslims coming to the Temple Mount for prayers on the last Friday of their holy month of Ramadan. The Temple Mount has two imposing Muslim shrines on it and is the site of both first and second Jewish temples.
The city canceled a performance of Handel's "Messiah" tomorrow night at the Jerusalem Convention Center. Then this week, its Religious Council renewed pressure on the city's hotels to forbid New Year's Eve parties, even though the two had agreed two months ago that private parties could be held in closed-off rooms.
As for the city's Christian populace, no one is making predictions, says Tom Doyle, a 20-something lawyer from the District who arrived in town Dec. 20 with fellow attorney Carol Ensalaco.
"People have all been backing off from a year-2000 date," he said yesterday. "We went to a Pentecostal service [at the local YMCA] and it was amazing how people danced around the end-of-time rhetoric. The pastor just said 'exciting times' were coming."
Nevertheless, people are arriving to grab hot viewing spots such as the Petra Youth Hotel's rooftop balcony with its panoramic view of both the Temple Mount and Mount of Olives.
"I don't think anything is going to happen," said Avi, a Petra hotelier who asked that only his first name be used. "Maybe a couple of computer glitches, but I think there'll be a bad comedown."
One American TV network was making plans to be on site all the same. Three floors up, a crew from ABC-TV was setting up a camera platform on the southeastern corner of the hotel's roof, slinging TV cables and stringing phone lines under a white tent. Watching them were bare-chested young men who were guests at the low-cost hostel, some of them lounging underneath a sign: "No politics, no religion and definitely no thinking."
Brad Rourke, a young man from Vancouver, British Columbia, ignored the sign as he read from Revelation.
"I think the Messiah is going to come, but not on the 31st," he said. At the stroke of midnight that day, he'll be at the Western Wall.
"I want to be praying at the turn of the clock," he said. "Right now I can see where Christ ascended. It was right there," gesturing toward the Mount of Olives about a half-mile away.
Minnesotan Ted Varani, seated a few feet away, wasn't committing to where he would be New Year's Eve but tonight he was planning to take a "millennium tour" of the city by night, led by a guide who swears Christ will return in 2029.
"There will be a lot of interesting people there," he said. "I want to see the weirdos who have turned out in droves."
But Bruce Mills, a deacon at Jerusalem Baptist Church who often counsels troubled Christian pilgrims, says the deluded ones are not in town this week.
"It's a bust," he said of millennium preparations. "No one is going to blow themselves up or doing anything like that."

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