JERUSALEM, Israel - We arrived early for the rally at Jerusalem's Paris Square, just down the street from the prime minister's residence, organized to protest the government's construction freeze in Judea and Samaria (often called the West Bank).
Huge speakers blasted music from a live band as cameramen set up their tripods and reporters walked through the gathering crowd, pads and pencils in hand, snapping pictures, while others sat here and there reviewing their scripts.
Periodically, someone announced over the loudspeaker that busses en route to the rally would arrive momentarily.
Here and there, men, women and teenagers read from their prayer books, swaying gently as they lifted their hearts heavenward.
I began looking for people to talk to. A woman standing on the periphery of the square, leaning against a streetlight, caught my eye. She smiled softly as I greeted her, her eyes moving to the pad and pen in my hand.
"Who do you work for," she asked, a tinge of defensiveness in her voice.
"CBN News," I responded, which seemed to satisfy her.
"What's your name and where are you from?" I asked in Hebrew, after she told me she didn't speak English.
"My name is Leah and I'm from Ofra," she responded.
I remembered reading about Ofra last spring, when the government issued a stop-work order for a waste-water plant that would have served the town and a nearby Palestinian village.
Located about 15 miles from Jerusalem, just off the main highway en route to Nablus (biblical Shechem), the town - founded in the mid-70s - is built near its ancient biblical site (see Joshua 18:21-23; 2 Chronicles 13:19; and John 11:54).
"How do you feel about the situation in the country?" I asked her.
"Rah meod [very bad]," she responded without hesitation and went on to speak freely about our matzav cache meod ha'yom, the very difficult place Israel is in today.
"When I look at my children and grandchildren, I'm encouraged [and] hopeful, but the situation in the country is very difficult," she said.
"It doesn't matter if it's Jerusalem, Pisgat Ze'ev, Ofra, it's all Israel," she told me.
Pausing for a moment, she said, "But we're not alone. HaShem [literally, "the name," used by many Jews to reverence the name of God] is always watching over us." We smiled as I thanked her and bid her shalom.
Continuing my walkabout, I chuckled at some of the posters: "Obama Wants Us Frozen. God Wants Us Chosen," one read.
"They shall no more be uprooted from their land that I have given them." (Amos 9:15), read another, with "God" written underneath as the signatory.
I stopped to talk with a woman holding a poster that read, "Democracies Obey the People." Unlike Leah, Lori wore no outward trappings of a religious Israeli, but she quickly spoke of her deep faith in the God of Israel.
"We need to have courage to the point that we're not afraid for our lives," she told me. "Bibi [Binyamin Netanyahu] should turn to HaShem for wisdom and direction," she said.
"As prime minister, he could call on us to fast and pray together, as a people," she said. "God called Israel to be a light to the nations, and this is our tafkeed [job]" she said.
Two women - with very different outward appearances - had told me the same thing.
Turning to a teenage boy, I asked, "What do you think about the settlement freeze?"
"We will build everywhere in our land," he responded without a moment's hesitation.