Optimism, cynicism and indifference
Locals react to US President Barack Obama's anticipated historic visit.
A WORKER at a factory in Kfar Saba arranges US flags ordered ahead of Obama's visit to Israel Photo: REUTERS
A cross-section of Jerusalem residents had divergent perspectives about US
President Barack Obama’s historic and much anticipated first visit to Israel as
president this week.
“I think it’s a good thing he’s coming because he’s
so involved in the situation [in the Middle East], so he should speak his mind
and see what’s really going on here,” said Taya Gizuntrman, a student of dental
medicine. “Me and my friends recognize the importance of his support for Israel,
and while I think he should be more pro-Israel, I’m still excited that he’s
coming. I think it’s positive – even if traffic will be a mess while he’s
Edwina Kruckeberg, a retired nurse from San Francisco, who made
aliya two months ago, barely concealed her contempt for Obama.
he’s a Muslim and that he really caters to the Arabs,” she said. “He appears to
be good, but he’s not good. His actions are bad because he doesn’t like Israel
or Israeli people.
He’s more concerned about Arab sentiment. He’s going
to pretend that he cares, but he has no intention of being supportive of
Gal, a Jerusalem native, who declined to give his full name,
said he was suspicious of the president’s visit.
“The question is ‘why is
he coming here?’” he asked. “I don’t know why [he’s coming] because we’ve had
almost zero contact with him. I think he’s done nothing good for
While Gal said he hopes that the relationship will improve, he
“He didn’t do anything good during his last term and
my feeling is that he has caused great harm to Israel. Look, there is a scale
here in the Middle East and the feeling is that he has pushed the Arab side of
it up and the Israeli side down.”
Moshe Stein, a retired employee of the
Internal Revenue Service, who made aliya in December from Queens, New York, took
a more nuanced approach to Obama’s visit.
“Yes, there is obviously
cooperation [between Israel and the US] as we saw with Iron Dome, but I’ve been
disappointed about certain statements [Obama has] made in speeches about
Specifically, Stein said he took issue with Obama’s 2009 speech
in Cairo, during which he attempted to reach out to the Muslim world.
recollection is that he spoke about Israel in terms of ‘after the Holocaust,’
but said nothing of the historical connection Jews have to this land,” he said.
“I just don’t think he’s fully aware of the depth of this relationship, or that
he accepts it. But I hope that will change.”
Stein added that Obama’s
reluctance to visit Israel during his first term has engendered further
“One of the great resentments within the Jewish community is
that in his first term he never visited Israel,” he continued.
probably would have helped matters.”
Sigal, a Jerusalem native who also
didn’t want to give her full name, said she was apathetic about Obama’s visit,
citing the icy stalemate between him and Prime Minister Binyamin
“I’m kind of indifferent. I don’t think anything will change
much, even if it’s a friendly visit,” she said. “This is more ‘formal’ than
‘friendly’ and I don’t think that Obama or Netanyahu think things will
After pausing briefly to consider the possibility of a
breakthrough, Sigal said she was not sanguine.
“I’m for giving Obama a
nice reception, but I don’t think it will have any effect, one way or the
other,” she said. “They’re just going through the motions.”