JERUSALEM -- New York Mayor David Dinkins, hustling through an overnight visit to Scud-scarred Israel, prayed for peace at the Western Wall Monday, thanked U.S. soldiers manning Patriot anti-missile batteries and gave out Barbie dolls to Ethiopian kids.
But Dinkins grew annoyed when asked whether he had arranged to meet any Palestinians, most of whom have been under curfew since the Persian Gulf war began, during his brief stay.
'I can't come for 24 hours and solve all the problems of the Mideast,' he snapped.
Dinkins, who arrived from New York Sunday afternoon and was expected back in City Hall by Monday night, also drank coffee with right-wing Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir and met with Tel Aviv families made homeless by the Scud-B missiles lobbed from Iraq.
'I'm here to thank the Israeli government for their forbearance,' Dinkins told reporters at the Mevasseret Zion immigrant absorption center, where he visited newly-arrived Ethiopians and Russians.
'The world understands the great restraint they've shown.'
The mayor, dressed fashionably in a gray overcoat and white scarf, started the morning at 7 a.m. with a brisk walk through the Old City with Jerusalem Mayor Teddy Kollek and donned a yarmulke to pray beside dozens of bearded men at the Western Wall, the holiest site in Judaism where the temple once stood.
Dinkins said he prayed for peace and an end to the Persian Gulf war.
But the stroll through the Old City was perhaps most notable for what did not happen. Unlike his predecessor, Edward Koch, who was beaned by a rock when he followed virtually the same route, Dinkins emerged smiling and unscathed.
Afterward, Dinkins, a liberal, made a brief breakfast call on Shamir, who was in the midst of a parliamentary battle to gain approval for a controversial Cabinet appointee.
Shamir's choice, Rehavam Ze'evi, wants Israel to retaliate against Iraq and in the past has called for 'transferring' Arabs in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza to Jordan.
The prime minister thanked Dinkins for showing solidarity with Israel and tried to illustrate the emotional tug-of-war in which his nation finds itself.
'Our people really want to fight,' Shamir said. 'However, we are aware of the complicated situation and our objective is victory for the coalition.
Dinkins later visited the immigrant center where he held several children, who arrived three weeks ago from Ethiopia, on his lap for photographers. He gave the boys toy bunny rabbits and the girls Barbie dolls.
Later, dressed in a brown leather jacket and red New York Giants hat, he visited a military base where U.S. soldiers man the missile batteries that have been shooting down the Iraqi warheads.
He also met with families in the Ramat Gan section of Tel Aviv, whose homes were devastated by the Iraqi Scuds. He said New York's homeless problem made him particularly sympathetic to their plight.