Thursday, May 15, 2008

Partying with the President

Over the last two days, there have been grumblings throughout Jerusalem because of the disruption in traffic. Several main roads have been all but closed due to President Bush's presence in the city for the President's Conference, hosted by Shimon Peres. Friends of mine have sat in their cars for double the amount of time it should take them to get to work. Thankfully, I left my house early enough each morning to avoid the re-routing. I even enjoyed a surreal jog the other night down the middle of Keren HaYesod, one of the busiest roads in Jerusalem, as the street was closed to automobiles.

I watched the President's speech at the Knesset on television this afternoon. I am often amazed by a seeming dichotomy between the president's statements on "good" and "evil"- dealing with terrorist states- on the one hand, and his actions in attempting to broker a peace accord with the Palestinians, on the other. His speech today shone with a sense of moral and political clarity. The President said: "Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along. We have heard this foolish delusion before," referring to the Nazi's. And yet, President Bush has said that he hopes, during his current stay, to "shore up the faltering negotiations" between Israel and the Palestinians.

Six days ago, I received an e-mail from a good friend, Yehuda, who lives in Boston. I knew he would be coming to Israel for a visit this week, as he was to participate in the President's Conference. In the e-mail, Yehuda informed me that he had been invited by the White House to an exclusive party at the Israel Museum Thursday night and would be bringing me as his guest. I was obviously delighted; and immediately amused by Yehuda's inimitable way with words: "get out your sunday finest," he instructed me, "we'll be throwing back a few beers with the prez."

Indeed, I put on my "sunday finest" and got myself gussied up for what I was hoping would be a tete-a-tete with the president. Security was so thick that all of the guests had to first undergo a security check at a parking lot several minutes away, before boarding a shuttle to the Israel Museum. I met up with Yehuda and his father, the former United States ambassador to Israel. We boarded the shuttle bus, sitting a few rows behind Rupert Murdoch, and a few rows in front of MK Ophir Pines-Paz.

The party took place on the veranda overlooking Jerusalem. The views were magnificent and the party was elegant, although the brisk Jerusalem night air sent shivers down my spine. The food was definitely the most delicious food I have eaten in this country. Waiters streamed out of the kitchen with platters of fillet steak, short ribs, seviche, carpaccio, spring chicken, mushroom cigars, and other fine delicacies. Yehuda and I spent most of the first hour and a half stuffing our bellies with food while people-watching, as the party was attended by the who's-who of the Jewish world. At one point, I helped Ron Silver with his tea cup. Occasionally we found Yehuda's father, and were introduced to someone interesting.

After about an hour and a half, the President and several Israeli and American dignitaries and diplomats entered the veranda. I stood next to Tzipi Livni as President Bush addressed the crowd. Following his brief remarks, the President slowly made his way toward his awaiting limousine. There was a barrier, and Secret Service men, blocking me from the front, VIP group of people whom the President was greeting personally on his way out.

I tried once to edge my way into the front section, but was physically turned back by the Secret Service guard. Finally, when the guard was distracted, a few moments before the President had departed, I sneaked forward and squeezed through the gaggle of VIP's. I thrust my hand forward and shook the President's hand. The people who had greeted the President before me congratulated him on his speech and remarked about his trip to Israel. As the President shook my hand, I said: "Mr. President, mazal tov on Jenna's wedding!" Tickled, he looked me in the eye and responded: "Thank you! It was such a wonderful day!"

Traffic annoyances and policy differences aside, it was truly exciting to meet the President. While I didn't get to "throw back a few beers with the prez," I am grateful to my friend Yehuda, and his sweet and generous father for inviting me to an unforgettable party with the president.

(President Bush and First Lady Laura Bush)
(Fmr U.S. Ambassador to Israel, Jerusalem Mayor Lupolianski, my friend, Yehuda)
(The President)

(President Bush shaking my hand)

No comments: