Obama Wows 'Em With His Hebrew in Scorching Israel Sun

No Shade for President After Landing in Tel Aviv

Welcome to Israel — Start Sweating: Barack Obama arrives in Israel for his first visit as president. He wowed his audience by breaking out a few words of Hebrew during the welcome ceremony.
getty images
Welcome to Israel — Start Sweating: Barack Obama arrives in Israel for his first visit as president. He wowed his audience by breaking out a few words of Hebrew during the welcome ceremony.

By Nathan Jeffay

Published March 20, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Barack Obama has become the fifth American president to visit Israel during his term in office.

Air Force One touched down bang on time at Ben Gurion Airport, met by trumpet blasts, an Israeli military guard of honor, and welcome speeches by his Israeli counterpart Shimon Peres and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

His red carpet ran alongside a reception line consisting of the ministers of the new government, and various faith leaders, including the country’s two chief rabbis, Druze, Muslim and Christian leaders. They waited patiently in the sweltering heat, some of them visibly uncomfortable, for their turn to meet the President.

Despite the scorching sun, there was no tent or shade. Obama and Netanyahu sat roasting in direct sunshine during the ceremony.

Obama stopped and spoke to each person in the line, greeting them relaxed, shaking their hand and exchanging a few words. This was his first encounter with several of the key ministers, including right-winger Naftali Bennett, the new Minister of Industry Trade and Labor, and the head of the centrist Yesh Atid Yair Lapid, who is Finance Minister.

Israel made a point with the choice of music played for Obama to approach the reception line.

It was Jerusalem of Gold, the song by Naomi Shemer, which emphasizes the Jewish connection to the holy city and which she updated after the Six Day War to celebrate the unification of Jerusalem. It was a musical statement of Israel’s desire to see Obama acknowledging the Jews’ historic connection for Israel (something that critics say he hasn’t done well enough to date) as well as the country’s need as a post-Holocaust haven. It also hinted at Israeli’s insistence that Jerusalem must stay united under its sovereignty.

After the musical Jerusalem theme, Peres also spoke of Jerusalem, saying: “In a few minutes you will be on your way to Jerusalem. Our ancient capital. The cradle of all believers, of all prayers. You will see the hills and mountains where our prophets preached. Where the soul of the Jewish People was born. Where the State of Israel was created.”

Obama ticked the Biblical-heritage box by referring to the Biblical Jewish connection to Israel, saying that here, “sons of Abraham” and “daughters of Sarah” are fulfilling a “dream.” But it may not have been the clear Jewish theme that Jerusalem was hoping for — the phrasing “sons of Abraham” and “daughters of Sarah” includes Muslims and Christians, who consider themselves Abrahamic descendents.

Obama used similarly inclusive phrasing when talking of the “past present and future in this tiny land that has left such a great imprint on the course of civilization.”

He wowed the audience by saying in Hebrew tov lihiyot shuv ba’aretz, which means it’s good to be back here in Israel.

He said that America stands by Israel as a fellow country built by pioneers with an ideal. He also noted that the two strong allies have shared security interests.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • What do you think?
  • "To everyone who is reading this article and saying, “Yes, but… Hamas,” I would ask you to just stop with the “buts.” Take a single moment and allow yourself to feel this tremendous loss. Lay down your arms and grieve for the children of Gaza."
  • Professor Dan Markel, 41 years old, was found shot and killed in his Tallahassee home on Friday. Jay Michaelson can't explain the death, just grieve for it.
  • Employees complained that the food they received to end the daily fast during the holy month of Ramadan was not enough (no non-kosher food is allowed in the plant). The next day, they were dismissed.
  • Why are peace activists getting beat up in Tel Aviv? http://jd.fo/s4YsG
  • Backstreet's...not back.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.