Because Jeff is a Fulbrighter, we were invited to the 4th of July party at the American Ambassador’s residence in Herzeliya-Pituach. It’s a gorgeous house on the beach. This was our second time at the house, the first being a Fulbright banquet, but this was the first time Ambassador Dan Shapiro was present. Last time he was called away by his boss, Secretary of State Kerry; it had something to do with Kerry trying to make peace in Jerusalem. It was great to finally meet Ambassador Shapiro.
The food: Domino’s, McDonald’s, Subway, and Ben & Jerry’s. The music: patriotic songs–oh, and Yankee Doodle Dandy. Is this America? I guess it’s about the same as reducing Israel to falafel and the Hatikva.
I did enjoy the Ben & Jerry’s. The ice cream sold here is almost universally made with a certain percentage of partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, and I think they do it for texture as well as economics of course, but it totally ruins the flavor.
They streamed the party live on the embassy website. Jeff, in turn, got real-time updates to his phone when his parents and mine posted on Facebook, “I just saw Jeff and Abby!” (We were just at the front of the ambassador’s receiving line when the camera cut away.) They also caught sight of our friends Lauren and Jon, who were visiting from America and were also invited since Lauren is involved with Israel advocacy in America.
I have to admit, the idea of being live on camera was a little creepy.
But it was fun. We got to meet a lot of interesting people, such as the Swedish ambassador, who called Israel “fantastic.” He’s new to the position, so his parents came to visit and tour around with him. (Just like us and all of our friends!) We also met the Brazilian military attache, who invited us to his home in Rio de Janeiro for a meal when we choose to travel to Brazil again. An attache, I learned, is a diplomatic position in the military.
I’m not one to ooh and aah over important people, but they do tend to be interesting and charming. They didn’t get to be where they are by being boring and irritating.
An aside: I’ll never forget the moment I realized that famous people are just people. I was at CAJE, where the famous musicians who attend are considered to be colleagues because music is an aspect of Jewish education. So I found myself at a kumsitz (informal, intimate, late-night music session) sitting across from a very famous and very talented performer whom I totally idolized at the time, and he was getting a little too comfy with another woman, not his wife. Hmm, just a man, I thought.
In my mind there is no series like The Winds of War and War and Remembrance by Herman Wouk to humanize the movers and shakers of history. It’s a historical romance that tells the entire story of WWII through an economy of interconnected characters. If you read any historical fiction at all, you know what I mean.
Anyway, back to the party. At the end of the evening, Ambassador Dan Shapiro, President Shimon Peres, and Prime Minister Netanyahu gave boilerplate speeches about the shared values between Israel and America. However, everyone mentioned the peace process with Palestine. It was interesting to hear the subtle differences in tone between Netanyahu’s and Peres’s speeches. Prime Minister Netanyahu focused on how democracy must be brought to the middle east, and with democracy, peace will follow. Yet President Peres’s speech stressed how peace is necessary for continued growth of Israel, Palestine, and America. Neither contradicted each other, but each speech stressed a different point.
Jeff noticed that one difference between America and Israel is how close we were allowed to be to the leaders. There was “limited” security around the stage, only three security men on it, and it allowed someone to get within an arm’s length of the leaders even during the speeches. We can’t imagine being so close to President Obama without more background checks or security measures in place.
I (Abby) suspect that this annual party serves as a ritual reinforcement of our alliance. The party felt like a renewed long-distance relationship: periodically renewing the relationship by visiting each other and by talking about what you have in common. You have to reminisce about shared experiences. You have to remind yourselves of the mutual benefits that come from being friends.
You especially have to remember each other’s birthdays. I would be a terrible diplomat.
-Abby and Jeff
Edit: P.S. Check out our friend Rebecca’s take on the party!