US President Barack Obama’s upcoming visit, which took on the air of a sporting
event last month with Israel’s selection of an “official” logo, began feeling
like a game show on Sunday as the US Embassy initiated a contest to attend
Obama’s keynote speech in Jerusalem.
“Want to attend President Obama’s
speech?” the embassy wrote in Hebrew, English and Arabic on its Facebook page,
as if Obama’s speech was a live taping of the Jay Leno show.
page, and in the comments below, tell us why you think we should invite YOU. Up
to twenty of our Facebook fans, who submit the most original and creative
responses, will see President Obama speak in person.”
Within four hours,
there were 375 responses from folks yearning to be a part of the audience at
Obama’s keynote address to the Israeli public on March 21 at the Jerusalem
International Convention Center (Binyenei Ha’uma).
The Facebook responses
ranged from the silly to the witty to the serious to the, well, kind of
For instance, Gilad Rotem wrote that he deserved the invitation
because “I am apparently the only hi-tech person in Israel who despite my age
(over 40) I have never visited the US. It is only right, therefore, that if the
highest US official visits Israel, that I should meet him.”
played the “haredi card.”
“It appears to me that I will be the only
haredi in the crowd for the speech of the president of the US, the president of
the superpower, the president of all the religions,” he wrote.
Nethanel hoped to impress with his “average credentials.”
“Hello there –
I’m an average person,” he wrote. “I’m not a genius or a fool – I’m an average
person. I’m not a professor and [not] uneducated, I[’m] with a degree at the
Hebrew University of Jerusalem – I’m an average person.
I’m not handsome
nor ugly. I’m not a leftist nor rightist, but the center – I am an average
I’m not high and low, 173 cm – I’m an average person. So I
clearly represent the average Israeli and [it would be an] honor for me to see
and hear President Obama.”
“Please,” begged Moran Kahimker, “I always
wanted to meet the double of my favorite actor, Will Smith.”
chivalrous Chen Shalev Sokolovsky wrote that “if you choose me, I’ll need
another ticket for my wife. I am NOT going without her,” while the humble Yadim
Wolff wrote that “I should be there because the president will be honored with
And, finally, Chai Kramf wrote that he deserves an
invitation because of his size. “I am 1.90 meters tall,” Kramf wrote, “and there
is no problem seating me in the back row.”
The embassy, with this
gimmick, took a page out of its own playbook: It raffled off five pairs of
tickets last summer for its annual July 4 bash at the ambassador’s residence in
Meanwhile, National Security Council head Yaakov Amidror, who
has overall responsibility for the visit, said on Sunday it was important that
Obama and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu have fruitful and productive talks,
because these discussions will serve as the basis for continued work together
over the next four years.
Amidror’s comments came at a planning meeting
at the Prime Minister’s Office with representatives from other government bodies
involved in the visit, including the President’s Office, Foreign Ministry,
Defense Ministry, police, Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), Jerusalem
Municipality and Ben- Gurion Airport.
Amidror stressed that it was
important that the two-day visit go smoothly, and that Obama – and all those
watching the visit – see as much of “beautiful Israel” as possible during the
short time period.
Netanyahu’s spokesman Lior Dan, the head of the
National Information Directorate, said that Israel was preparing for “hundreds
of journalists” who will arrive to cover the trip. It was important to stress
two things: the close and deep ties between Israel and the US, and Israel’s
technological prowess, Dan said.
According to the tentative schedule,
Obama will arrive a week from Wednesday and after a likely tour of the Iron Dome
missile-defense system – this may be pushed off to the end of his trip – he will
go to Jerusalem for a meeting with President Shimon Peres.
will be followed by a meeting with Netanyahu, a joint press conference and
dinner with the prime minister.
On Thursday, March 21, Obama will go to
the Israel Museum’s Shrine of the Book where he will see the Dead Sea scrolls,
and then visit an exhibit on Israeli technology.
He will then go to
Ramallah for a meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, and
return to Jerusalem in the afternoon, where he will give his speech at the
International Convention Center. That evening, Peres will host him for a state
On Friday, Obama will lay a wreath at the graves of Theodor Herzl
and Yitzhak Rabin on Mount Herzl, and then tour Yad Vashem before leaving before