Presidential preparations in Israel
It’s a little more than a week away and the frenzy surrounding the upcoming visit to Israel by President Barack Obama is gaining force like a tsunami. I’m not talking about the vital issues that Obama will be dealing with when he meets with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and other Israeli and Palestinian leaders over the course of his two days in the region – but about the dinners, the traffic jams, the concerts and the events that will transform our little corner of the world into a huge magnifying glass for 48 hours.
Here are a few of the tidbits about the upcoming visit that have emerged over the last day or so.
• Obama will be staying in the venerable King David Hotel, where his entourage will fill all 233 rooms. But not only will a hungry staffer be out of luck if he wants to order a BLT, due to the hotel’s policy of keeping kosher, Obama and his team won’t even be able to order an LT sandwich. The hotel will have already switched its kitchens over to Passover mode, meaning no ‘hametz’. The kosher for Passover rolls and cakes have certainly improved over the years in Israel, but it still made leave somewhat of a bad taste in the mouths of the White House entourage.
• The US Embassy in Tel Aviv has initiated an online contest enabling winner s to attend Obama’s keynote speech planned for March 21 at Jerusalem’s Binyanei Hauma.
“Want to attend President Obama’s speech?” the embassy wrote in Hebrew, English and Arabic on its Facebook page. “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 Israelis hoping to win the chance to be among the lucky 20.
• The Prime Minister’s Office launched an app to follow Obama’s visit in real time. Available though Israel’s Apple store, the app is designed to assist journalists covering the visit and allow Israelis to receive real-time updates, including video streaming.
• Singers David D’or and Rita have been chosen to perform at the state dinner President Shimon Peres is hosting for Obama at The President’s Residence during his visit. The golden-throated soprano D’or will perform a rendition of the spiritual classic “Amazing Grace”, while it’s unclear whether Rita will sing songs from her recent excursion to her Persian roots or stick to her Hebrew classics. After all, it’s questionable whether as Netanyahu is lobbying Obama to go after Iran’s nuclear program that he’ll be wanting the president to be hearing peaceful Iranian lullabies. Just another of the many details that need to be ironed up ahead of next week.