Obama's visit: Just like a game show

US Embassy initiates contest offering tickets to be part of visiting American president's "studio audience."

US Embassy Obama contest 370 (photo credit: Facebook)
US Embassy Obama contest 370
(photo credit: Facebook)
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.
“LIKE our 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 pathetic.
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.”
Koby Yaakobi 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.
Gideon 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 person.
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.”
The ever 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 my presence.”
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 Herzliya.
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.
That meeting 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 dinner.
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 Shabbat.