OSLO – It may not be politically correct these days to say every little girl wants to be a princess, but I certainly did, and I never really grew out of it.
Since I can’t be a princess when I grow up, I take comfort in the fact that I have a job where I can at least meet one.
So, when the Norwegian Embassy in Israel invited me to cover President Shimon Peres
and told me the trip would include a gala at the Royal Palace, I literally squealed with excitement.
That's basically a royal ball, I thought, which is basically a real-life fairy tale.
My next thought was, of course, what would I wear.
Flash forward a few weeks and I get a glimpse of the royal family – King Harald V, Crown Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette-Marit – at an honor guard for Peres Monday morning. Of course I took note of the princess’ look, especially her white-blonde hair and elegant gloves – just like Elsa, one of the princesses from the latest Disney flick, Frozen.
Hours later, the group of Israeli journalists arrived at the palace for the gala. Taking photos with the guards – without our coats on so you can see our dresses, despite the cold – was a must, since no pictures were allowed inside.
What I found in the palace was every bit the fairy tale I’d hoped for.
A long line of elegantly dressed people waited in ornate halls with every square inch decorated, from the carpets to the ceilings.
We received our seating cards, ascended a wide staircase, shook hands with a man in old-fashioned military garb with a sword in his belt, and entered a hall full of fellow gala attendees. A quick comparison made it clear that the Israelis were not quite up to par in their ordinary suits and ties, as opposed to the many men in tuxedos with white bow ties and tails. The Israeli women, including myself in a floor-length teal gown and my grandmother’s pearls, did a bit of a better job dressing for the occasion, though we came nowhere near the fancier- dressed women, sparkling with sequins and beading.
Soon, a set of wide, tall double doors opened, and we walked past a violinist into another hall where, in a row, stood the king, Peres, the prince and princess and the king’s sister. I shook hands with all of them, and got to say the blessing for meeting royalty, “shenatan mikvodo lebasar vedam,” who gave honor to flesh and blood, for the first time.
The king and crown prince looked like they were straight out of Disney’s Cinderella in their blue and red military uniform with rows and rows of medals. The princess’s white-blonde hair was swept back elegantly and her blue eyes shone under her thin sparkly tiara. She wore a white blouse with a royal red sash and pin and a full, icy-blue satin skirt, looking positively regal.
We journalists entered the dining room, where there were five long tables and one U-shaped one, and I found the place card with my name. In front of me was a menu for a four-course meal, a list of the classical music the string quartet would play, a colorful plate with royal insignia and a doily on top, four forks, three knives, a spoon and five glasses.
I reminded myself that I should use the utensils from the outside in, protocol I learned from the many princess- related books and movies I consumed.
After a couple of polite and friendly speeches from the king and Peres and the Israeli and Norwegian national anthems, the meal began.
“Look, we can start a scandal.
There’s Israeli wine from the occupied territories,” an Israel Radio reporter whispered to me, pointing to a few bottles of red and white wine from the Golan Heights Winery.
I soon realized that my cutlery was different from everyone else’s, which had the royal insignia, while mine was plain. I saw Norwegian Chief Rabbi Michael Melchior sitting not far from me, and it all clicked.
“It’s not a scandal, it’s for the kosher meals!” I responded.
As the evening wore on, I was amazed by the lengths to which the palace went to make my kosher meal look as fancy and respectable as everyone else’s food, arranged beautifully on the plate with splashes of colorful sauces.
The only major difference was the main course – lamb and pork sausages for most, but salmon and vegetables for the rabbi and me – which was great, because I had set a goal when I left for Norway, that I have thus far met, to eat salmon at every meal.
I was impressed at how the waiters, all of whom wore knickerbockers, knee socks, buckle shoes, red vests and blue jackets with tails, did everything to make me feel like there was nothing out of the ordinary about my meal.
They poured me the Golan wine when they poured everyone else non-Kosher wine and put my kosher plates in front of me without saying or asking for anything.
At the end of the meal, we adjourned to the welcoming hall for coffee, tea, cognac and chocolate truffles, where the guests mingled with the royals, except for the king, who sat at a small table with Peres and few other select people.
“Is there anyone you’d like to meet?” Norwegian Ambassador to Israel Svein Sevje, who I interviewed ahead of the trip, asked me, and without hesitation and with a grin, I told him the princess.
Sevje maneuvered me over to the princess and I shook her hand and introduced myself.
“Thank you so much for your hospitality. It was a beautiful event,” I told her.
“Thank you for coming,” she responded.
Then, after that minute of princess magic, her husband, the prince, came over to tell her that Peres was leaving and they had to say good-bye. I bid the couple farewell.
That was it, I got what I came for. I met and talked to a real live princess at an exclusive gala in a palace. As I walked back to my hotel, even though my feet ached in my silver heels, which sunk into the grass in the Royal Palace Park, a smile was glued on my face.