Tuesday, January 15, 2008
The President of the United States has come and gone; Israel is back to normal, or as normal as an abnormal country can hope to be. I spent Wednesday late-morning glued to the television, awaiting Bush’s arrival. The Army band was all lined up, the heads of state were shaking sweaty palms and pushing meek smiles, the journalists were stretching, and the red carpet was waiting to be trampled. All of this for Pres. Bush, a man whose visits abroad mean so little that the only thing the American news stations were reporting on was the heat between Clinton and Obama.
But, us Israelis were geared up for the event. I, along with millions of others, waited as our roads were closed off, our cops were pulled to King George Street, and we prepared for inconvenience, in the least. While watching the preposterous pomp and circumstance being laid out for Bush, I was gearing myself up for a guaranteed to be hectic visit downtown. I wanted to catch some shots of his convoy, or at least take some pictures of the road closures and police presence.
They kept up with their silly political speeches, Olmert saying how great it is to have a friend like Bush, and Bush saying how great it is for America to have a friend like Israel. I rolled my eyes, waiting to see Bush either say something dumb, or for Olmert to start kissing his feet. I didn’t get that lucky… One comical element of the procession occurred when the head of the Army band, or some other Army pomp-leader, was supposed to call Bush to walk forward. Bush, of course, was going to lead the heads of state down the aisle in holy matrimony. Instead of calling out to Bush in English, the language the man knows, this Israeli sucker yelled “ADONI!,” an expression meaning “my lord,” in the 18th century British tradition. That’s the ridiculousness of Israelis. Don’t speak their language? Most important man in the free-world? “Ehh, who cares?”
Bush got into Marine One, or whatever that cool helicopter is called, and they headed out for Jerusalem. I got my things together, packed up my jacket with the iPod and camera and wallet and all that business, and started to head out the door, hoping to catch Bush’s convoy in town. As I was about to turn the t.v. off, however, I noticed that they were showing one of the many helicopters landing in an area right next to my apartment. As I saw this, I heard chopper noises close-by. So, I run outside, up my steps, and there goes the beginning of the chopper-convoy. One by one, the choppers fly right over my apartment, flying in RPG range, and then Marine Force One comes by.
Fairly fortuitous! I snapped some pictures, and noticed my neighbors all staring at the same sight. So, I knew my chances were now very slim on getting downtown in time, considering how quickly they got to Jerusalem. but I got everything together and caught the bus. On the ride downtown a whole pack of Israeli helicopters flew over the road and made their way back to a base, I think. A few choppers were in the sky all-day, but that’s not always out of the ordinary.
On the ride into town everyone on the bus was talking about Bush. Mostly, everyone was complaining about the road-closures and alternate routes for the bus, placing their normal stops out of reach. Three teen boys in front of me joined in on taking pictures of the massive blimps in the air above King David Hotel – the eyes in the sky. As we were turning on a road intersecting King George Street, the street that Bush’s hotel is on (a closed street), I glanced up and noticed about 5 big, black, Chevy Suburbans blaring their diplomatic lights and sirens. I caught the tail-end of Bush’s convoy; not bad. I later found out that a friend of mine actually saw Bush, and got pictures. Pretty cool stuff, if you ask me.
I spent the rest of the day taking pictures of the huge police presence, the barricades along the roads, buses of army kids being shipped in for extra, free muscle, and of course the swarm of media personnel. It really was pretty neat to see all this activity, especially considering that I’m not a city-boy. I’m from Elkton, Virginia. We don’t see presidents and security lockdowns.
The news channels were talking about Bush for three days. They all said the same inane crap: “Look at Bush, he really is a smart guy. He doesn’t have to bring papers with him. He remembers everything. He looks very smart right here, next to Olmert.” They love that guy! The man on the street wasn’t as upset about Bush’s policies as he was about road closures and the hassle of extra security. That’s not to say there weren’t protests and signs and large groups of haters. I’m just saying that most of the conversations I overheard were from frustrated commuters.
So, what should I say? Should I admit that I was a little moved, for some reason, while watching the procession on t.v.? Why exactly did I feel patriotic, as both an American and Israeli, as I watched two men I have little respect for represent the countries I hold in great esteem? Should I admit that I was a little star-struck while watching a presidential chopper convoy? Or maybe I could venture to submit that I was even a little bit proud to be an American on those days? I really had no reason to be proud, considering who was there representing America. And to be an American here – not really the most impressive thing. But, on those days, for whatever reason, I felt like America and Israel had a chance after all…even while keeping in mind my opinion on the effectiveness of these diplomatic visits.
Or, maybe it was the $1.8 million that Israel spent in securing Bush that forced me to feel a little awed. $1.8 mill in three days? I better shed a damn tear for all that!
I’ll post some pictures in the next few days.