The days prior to President Obama’s momentous visit to the State of Israel were quite annoying for me. I couldn’t stand the ongoing, exhaustive reports about the dry cleaning of the red carpet, the innovative Israeli menu at the fancy dinner, the kosher-for-Pesach hotel, and the growing lists of the “blessed” invited and the frustrated uninvited.
The first day of the visit was even worse: our poor small country, just recovering from too long and very painful coalition negotiations, was put under siege. People could not go to work, roads miles away from the action were blocked, big black cars and foreign security officers were filling our eternal capital, all the compulsory cleanings and errands of pre-Pesach were sabotaged. I had to call into a staff meeting at a remote moshav outside Jerusalem; once on the call I publicly announced that I was ignoring Obama’s visit and even thought that it was useless.
But then something happened to me. I heard it from others as well: we were glued to the TV and magnetized by the man, his style, and his message. I am usually a cynical individual and don’t believe too much in high talk, emotional gestures, and formal ceremonies.
However, this time around was different. I came up with the following insight: Obama’s words and appearance became a mirror that was put in front of our own eyes. He was able to show us things about ourselves that we kind of forgot. To remind us who we are, why we are here, and what we need to do for our future.
The new Knesset, the new government, the “new Israelis” from last summer’s protest, and the young audience in the Binyanei Haumah convention center are all the reflection of this mirror. The President of the United States helped us ignite a spark, a new spirit, and conduct a reality check that was long needed here to reenergize ourselves in order to move forward while keeping our unique character.
Ironically, Obama, of all leaders, was able to unveil and crystalize for us our own ancient values of aryevut hadadit (mutual responsibility), redifat shalom (pursuing peace) and tikkun olam (repairing the world). To clear the dust from our own Zionist patriotism. To redevelop a sense of pride and to expose to us our sometimes forgotten core vision as individuals and as a nation.
Strange but encouraging.
I know. The reality of our wild Middle Eastern neighborhood is tough. No nice words and no symbolic gestures can really change it. After Pesach, and the upcoming Yom HaZikaron (Israel Memorial Day) and Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israel Independence Day) commemorations and celebrations, the visit and its implications might remain in our history and hearts as yet another distant moment of sweet memories.
On the other hand, we might have experienced a flash of inspiration that leads to a real change of direction. In the spirit of Pssach and spring, for now I choose to stick to this last thought.
Pesach kasher v’sameach.