A glum Israel greets Jewish New Year

Israelis enter the Jewish New Year, which begins Friday night, shaken by the summer's inconclusive war in Lebanon, angry at their leaders and coping with growing gaps between rich and poor.

The uneasy mood was easy to gauge at Jerusalem's open air Mahane Yehuda market, where last-minute shoppers stocked up on food ahead of a two-day holiday when Jews are to take stock of their lives.

At Gideon Cohen's fruit and vegetable stand, the most popular merchandise was the pomegranate, traditionally consumed on the Rosh Hashana holiday because its numerous seeds evoke the many virtues the person eating it hopes to embody in the coming year, reports AP.

Cohen said he could measure the country's level of prosperity by his pomegranate sales, and that the numbers weren't good. A year ago, Rosh Hashana pomegranates went for eight shekels ($1.85, Ђ1.50) a kilogram (2.2 pounds), he said, but this year he had to drop the price to four, and sales were still down. Terror attack warnings were keeping some people away, but the economic situation was mostly to blame, he said. "People just don't have money right now," Cohen said.

Government statistics released before the holiday showed that despite a general improvement in the economy in 2005, one-fourth of all Israelis live below the country's poverty line.