Would you fly across the world for 3 hectic days, then return back home?
In March of this year, Barack Obama did just that. He came to Israel for his first official visit as the president of the United States.
While some criticized the fact that his first official visit came after 4 whole years as the leader of “Israel’s greatest friend”, as Obama himself defined the United States during his speech in Jerusalem, there was no doubt that everyone from the Israeli president, Shimon Peres, to the everyday meme creators was excited.
The Man’s Got a Sense of Humor
“It is a great honor to be here with you in Jerusalem”, said Obama as he opened his first speech in the Holy Land. Thousands of students from across the country competed for the chance to be present in the same room he was.
The fortunate ones got up on their feet often as he spoke, while the rest of the country watched the speech on their TV and computer screens.
Obama talked about generations-long history, encapsulating many events in a few minutes’ time. He talked about the holocaust and about the courage people – like my grandparents – had to be able to come to Israel and develop this country. Obama also referred to the many wars my parents’ generation – and everyone who lives here, really – has had to endure. He promised Israel has the United States’ profound support.
Then he went on to talk about the Palestinians’ viewpoint, about the need to treat them better and about their rights to their own country and peace. Obama said peace is possible. He knows it cannot be guaranteed, yet he does believe it’s possible.
From time to time, he threw in a word or two in Hebrew, yet nothing topped the way he opened his speech. Obama referred to the many media reports of his lesser-than-great relationship with the Israeli prime minister, and proved that he’s got a sense of humor.
Here’s what he had to say about this:
“I know that in Israel’s vibrant democracy, every word, every gesture, is carefully scrutinized. But I want to clear something up, just so you know that every drama between me and my friend [Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, who’s commonly nicknamed] Bibi over the years was just a plot to create material for [Israeli satire show] ‘Eretz Nehederet’ [Wonderful Country in English]. That’s the only… The only thing that was going on”.
A Gift to the Presidential Dog, Obama’s Tree Gets Uprooted and Amazing Grace
Obama’s visit to Israel might have had a political importance, yet the madness it created in traditional and new media reminded many of something else that matters in this turbulent region – laughter.
That was particularly important to residents of Jerusalem, as many streets in the city were closed for the safety of the president.
Following are a few samples of the madness. Be sure to click on the links. They will open in new windows, and most of them contain photos that, unfortunately, aren’t mine to include here.
A gift to the presidential dog
Sara Netanyahu, the prime minister’s wife, presented Obama with a rubber hamburger toy to take home to Bo, the presidential dog. She also gave him “chains with silver medallions in the form of David’s harp set with Roman glass” to take to his daughters, Sasha and Malia, the prime minister’s website reported. Michelle Obama received a silver Passover plate.
Strangely, a gift to Barack Obama himself was not listed.
Obama plants a tree, the government takes it out
Obama brought a tree and planted it here in Israel. Shortly afterward, the tree was uprooted for inspection.
I’m sure it’s back in its place now.
Main roads get closed – Obama comes by helicopter
Updates about Obama’s movements around the country were frequent – including the time Obama used a helicopter while residents got stuck in traffic, as central roads got closed for his sake.
A fancy dinner on prime-time
During Obama’s visit, a luxurious, invitation-only dinner took place. Some of Israel’s top performers appeared there, and it was broadcast live on prime-time TV. I only caught a few minutes of the events on TV, and I couldn’t get the song Amazing Grace out of my head for days.
Obama’s Next Career – A Model?
Commercial brands were quick to capitalize on the madness. Some of the products that were promoted during Obama’s visit to Israel were:
– “I love Michelle” T-shirts were created and sold.
– A mattress company whose mattress served Obama in his visit to Jerusalem promoted their products using a black-skinned male model. Anybody wants to sleep on the same kind of mattress Obama did?
– A cafe house advertised that it’s selling the same kind of wine that was served to Obama at the official government dinner.
– Waze, an app that aims to help you navigate on the road, added Obama’s face to symbolize traffic and road closing. Similarly, the government launched a new app right when Obama visited. The app included updates on Obama, thus likely enticing many to download it. It’s all about the timing.
Yet brands weren’t the only ones partying. Meme creators on the land of the Internet helped encourage the Obama Madness as well.
Politicians in service of Calvin Klien
When the president of the United States comes to visit, official clothes are required. That means suits and ties. Obama himself came well dressed, obeying to the code of official fashion. Yet it gets hot in the Middle East, and Obama decided to take his jacket off.
The Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, soon followed his lead, hanging the jacket over his shoulder with his hand as Obama did.
Before long, a snapshot of the two men walking this way was partially transformed to black and white, the brand name of fashion house Kelvin Klien plastered at its bottom.
One of Israel’s top brands, Osem, has a candy called Bamba. It’s a corn candy, who’s flavor is peanut buttery. This tasty candy has been branded using a cartoon of a baby in a diaper at least for the past 20 something years. The famous slogan I remember from my childhood was, “Ima [Mom]), Aba [Dad], Bamba!”.
In recent years, Osem started creating additional flavors, including one that combined chocolate. During Obama’s visit, a photo of the chocolate Bamba started showing up on my Facebook feed. The cartoon was still the baby’s body in a diaper, yet the head was replaced with…. the head of President Obama.
That, people, is the Obamba.
The Obama ice sculpture
Ice City, Jerusalem’s second-ever ice festival, which I’ll be writing about later this month, took place during Obama’s visit to Israel. The very last sculpture visitors see before exiting this gorgeous exhibition is that of Barack Obama standing between two flags of the United States and behind a sculpture of the Israeli flag and the words “Welcome Obama” (see the top of this post).
Behind him was the logo of Isracard, one of Israel’s credit card companies and the sponsor of Ice City.
Which part of the Obama Madness is your favorite?