One day after US President Barack Obama’s historic arrival to Jerusalem,
residents expressed appreciation for the visit, reacted to the timing of rocket
fire from Gaza, voiced frustration over Jonathan Pollard’s continued
incarceration and sighed with relief that traffic was not as bad as they
While finishing lunch with her 12-year-old daughter at a café
on Ben-Yehuda Street, Iris Avrahami said she was pleased by Obama’s visit, and
gratified that it coincided with Thursday’s rocket fire from Gaza.
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course it’s very nice and very important to have Obama here – especially now so
he can feel what it’s like when the Grad rockets are launched at us,” she said.
“Now he can live like us for a few days.”
relationship with America, Avrahami expressed hope that it improves.
must take a step forward in our relationship with [Obama], or else nothing good
will happen,” she said.
Regarding the numerous road closing and traffic
over the past two days, Avrahami said she took it in stride.
when you’re living here you know there are good things and bad things,” she
said. “This is part of life here. It inconvenienced me because I live downtown
and was barely able to use my car, but I accept the situation with love and
understanding because it’s part of being a citizen in
Meanwhile, Avrahami’s daughter, Noa, said that while she has
great respect for Obama, she wished he would pardon Pollard.
excited [that he came] because it is helpful to us because he’s from America and
very famous and powerful,” she said. “I also respect him because he’s the first
black [US] president and appreciate him because he’s responsible for so many
“I think he’s like a father figure to Israel,” continued Noa,
before adding, “But I think he should free Jonathan Pollard for Passover because
it’s the holiday of freedom.”
Claire Levy, who moved to Jerusalem 15
years ago from Switzerland, said she was encouraged that Obama came, but dubious
of any meaningful breakthroughs with Prime Minister Binyamin
“I’m positive because I think it’s a good thing that such an
important man came here,” said Levy. “Still, I don’t know if I believe he will
do anything for this country, but he’s here and we have to be happy about
Regarding Thursday’s rocket fire, Levy said she doubted that it will
impact Obama’s perception of the region.
“I don’t think Obama will think,
‘Oh, the poor Israelis,’” she said. “I mean it’s just two rockets – no big
As far as traffic was concerned, she said she thought it was much
ado about nothing.
“Everyone’s been talking about traffic, but nothing
has happened,” Levy said. “Personally, I’ve been very happy because I’ve been
able to walk to work faster with the roads closed.”
Meanwhile, Eran Yoel
David, who runs a Chabad station on Ben-Yehuda Street that offers to help people
put on tefillin, primarily expressed concerns over Pollard’s protracted
“Obviously the issues of Iran and Syria are the most
important things for people globally, but for me, the big ‘private issue’ is
freeing Jonathan Pollard,” said David. “I mean, let him go – the guy has
suffered enough, I think.”
Echoing Noa, David added, “Now is the time of
Like they say at the Seder, ‘Give the Jews freedom from Pharaoh’
– now give Pollard freedom from prison.”
A nearby Western Wall worker,
who requested anonymity, also expressed concern over Pollard’s
“I see people praying for him [at the Western Wall] all the
time, including his wife,” he said. “The feeling is: ‘Why is this happening to
this guy?’ [Pollard’s] situation is surreal, like something out of a Kafka
He went on to opine that Pollard is being made an example of to
discourage American Jews from harboring loyalty for both nations.
mean, the guy made a mistake, but I have a feeling that the way he is being
forced to pay for the mistake is a political message to Israel saying, ‘We’re
friends, but at a distance,’” he said. “And I think it’s a message to Jews in
the States against any dual loyalty.”
Meanwhile, Joseph Albarino, an
American yeshiva graduate student from Boca Raton, Florida, who is studying
nursing in Israel, said he supports Obama and believes the US president is in a
difficult position in terms of pleasing both Jews and Arabs.
it’s important that he’s here because the majority of the Jewish people have a
preconceived notion of Obama as not caring about Israel,” said
“But there’s nothing that he’s done to make me think that he
doesn’t care about Israel. I think that he comes across as balanced, and because
emotions are so high about an issue that people want him to fully support one
[way] or the other, no one is happy.”
Albarino added that despite
numerous warnings from friends about road closures and traffic, he rented a car
to go to Ein Gedi and did not experience any problems, adding that he was
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