Grapevine: Fit for a president

Obama waves during his second presidential inauguration 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Obama waves during his second presidential inauguration 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
■ US PRESIDENT Barack Obama is being very even-handed with regard to his patronage of Jerusalem’s luxury hotels. When he was here in 2008 while still a senator campaigning for his first stint as president, he stayed at the David Citadel Hotel. When he comes to Israel next week he will be staying at the King David, where the Presidential Suite costs in excess of NIS 18,000 a night. It’s somewhat less at the David Citadel, but still very expensive. But as impressive as the David Citadel is architecturally, it doesn’t quite have the prestige of the King David, which has long been a favorite of kings, queens, presidents and prime ministers as well as many dignitaries of lesser rank. Of the American presidents who have visited Israel, Bill Clinton came the most times – four times as president plus several times after leaving office. On his last visit in an official capacity, he stayed at the David Citadel, which was then known as the Jerusalem Hilton and was still a relatively new star in Jerusalem’s hospitality firmament.
Moti Verses, the Hilton public relations manager, invited this columnist to spend a night in the Presidential Suite prior to Clinton’s arrival. One night was not long enough to explore the full extent of the opulence of the suite. The push-button, flat-screen television that rose from the foot of the bed was perhaps more impressive than all the fine toiletries, wines, handmade chocolates and other little luxuries that come with the presidential title of the suite. When breakfast arrived the following morning, there was such a huge variety that it was impossible to taste everything on the trolley that the waiter wheeled out onto the private patio. The only thing I really wanted was missing – and that was a pot of coffee. When I pointed out to the waiter that he’d missed something, he was so mortified and contrite that he almost collapsed in embarrassment.
■ ARGUABLY, THE nicest thing one human being can do for another is to bring on a smile, and on the eve of Good Deeds Day last week, 40 musicians and a ballerina from the Jerusalem Music and Dance Academy brought smiles to the faces of scores of patients, visitors, hospital staff, donors and volunteers at Hadassah University Medical Center Ein Kerem when they played Tchaikovsky’s “Waltz of the Flowers” in the entrance lobby of the Sarah Wetsman Davidson Hospital Tower. It was a joy to behold the reactions of people of all ages, from toddlers to senior citizens, as the music wafted through the building. A man reading a newspaper began to play an imaginary piano in the air. A tiny tot perched on her father’s shoulders gazed, awestruck, at the musicians and the ballerina, who danced her way literally into the wheelchair of a child whose face radiated pure joy at the brief encounter.
People swayed and nodded to the music, and some even danced, but no one smiled more broadly than Marcie Natan, the national president of Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, who was on one of her frequent visits to Israel. Natan was so entranced that she asked the harpist to teach her how to play a few notes. Later, Natan wrote on the organization’s website, “Can you imagine a symphonic orchestra at the entrance to your local hospital? That is what I experienced on Sunday as I participated in the Flashwaltz at Hadassah Hospital in honor of Good Deeds Day. The emotion as I watched the ballerina dance with the young woman in the wheelchair plus my pleasure at seeing members of the Society of Major Donors waltzing along to the incredible Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance musicians brought me to new heights in the Sarah Wetsman Davidson Hospital Tower.”
■ MANY RESIDENTS in the western part of the city have little or no knowledge of the cultural and social life of east Jerusalemites. There’s no shortage of lectures, concerts and film nights there – and not everything is in Arabic. There are lots of events in English and French, as well as in other languages. Coming up next month at the Yabous Cultural Center on Al-Zahra Street is a concert of Turkish and Balkan music by the Alp Bora Quartet, comprising Alp Bora, Julia Pichler, Lukas Lauermann and Soner Tezcan.