In many ways, Israel is like America 50 years ago. One of those ways is that you can still walk right by government offices, and the government officials are sometimes out and about without cordoning off the entire city. Last year I met and talked to a former prime minister, and most likely the next prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. That was very cool, considering he is my favorite politician in the world.
Today I was on the bus going home from the bank (a whole other story), and I looked over at the King David Hotel as we passed by. I always look at it. This hotel is like the Ritz Carlton of Jerusalem. It is the very nicest hotel in Israel. The building was the center of the British Mandate authority when they were in control of 'Palestine,' from its opening until 1947, and it has continued on as the international headquarters for foreign diplomats. Bill Clinton stayed there. Condoleeza Rice stays there. King Hussein, Anwar Sadat, Mubarak, Gorbachev, Eleanor Roosevelt, Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Richard Gere, Ralph Lauren, Ed & Teddy Kennedy, John Lennon, Al Gore, Billy Graham, and a slew of other politicians and celebrities all spent their nights at this hotel. Simply put, it's the place to be.
Anyway, I looked over at the King David Hotel and saw a whole row of consular vehicles. These are usually very new, very nice Mercedes-Benz's, and they are identified by white license plates. Nothing new. You see these all the time in Israel. The unique sight was a deep blue stretch limo Volvo, an extremely rare vehicle, sandwiched inbetween all the diplomatic Benzs. The Volvo was parked right next to the main entrance -- prime real estate in the midst of diplomats.
A few weekends ago I was walking through Rechavia, one of the nicest neighborhoods in Jerusalem. I ended up cutting across the street, which is home to the prime minister's office complex; Israel's White House. No big deal. There's a gate and guard at each entrance to the sidestreet, and a large wall blocking the house, with bulletproof guard towers overlooking the street...but really it's quite tame for being the seat of the most hated government in the world. As I was walking through, a short journey which always excites me, I saw the government convoy. A whole row of beautiful, non-German (i.e.- non-Nazi), deep blue Volvos. The license plates were even cooler. No numbers, no identification. Just a blank plate with the Israeli crest in the middle. Very James Bond.
I didn't see a stretch Volvo by the Rechavia complex, so it was quite the eye-catcher to see it in front of the King David. I don't know who was meeting foreign diplomats, but I can guarantee you what it was all about: Annapolis, the 'peace process,' or some other political disaster.
It's really a very cool thing to see your government out and about, to see them working, even if all that means is that they're meeting in the presidential suite or something at the Ritz. What if you were just walking down the street, no security or anything to raise an eyebrow, and there was George Bush's limo sitting at the Hilton? Our governments seem so far away from our daily lives, and really not in a good way, so it's refreshing to see the big dogs at work.
Maybe it's just a 'star-struck' kind of excitement. But, I was wondering what I'd say to the prime minister if I was the doorman....probably something like, "NO ONE WANTS YOU!"