A Surreal Visit

Published November 17, 2006, issue of November 17, 2006.
  • Print
  • Share Share

A visit by Israel’s leader is traditionally a festive time for American Jews. Going back to the days of David Ben-Gurion, such visits are a chance for members of the community to turn out en masse, show their solidarity with the world’s only Jewish state and applaud its elected chief. Topping it off, the prime minister’s visit to the White House, with its obligatory declarations of eternal friendship between the two nations, lets ordinary Jews bask in the reflected glow, secure in the knowledge that their two loyalties truly are one. For all those reasons, we salute Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, welcome him to our home and wish him a safe return journey.

It can’t go unremarked, however, that this week’s encounter was not like past visits. It came at a time of extraordinary turmoil — for Olmert and President Bush, both wounded politicians on their home fronts, and for their nations in the global arena. Olmert has led Israel into a series of military blunders in the past half-year that have left his country weakened, its military humiliated and its citizenry despondent. As for Bush, his isolation on the world stage became complete last week when his own citizens decisively repudiated his leadership. Their chat in the Oval Office might as well have taken place over beers in a saloon.

What they hoped to accomplish by meeting was no secret. Olmert was aiming to boost his abysmal standing at home by appearing alongside the world’s most powerful man. Bush was looking to escape his political misery, if only for a moment, by standing in the Rose Garden with a popular foreign leader who would show him the respect befitting the leader of the Free World. What they got was the opposite. Standing together, each highlighted the other’s weakness.

For American Jews, this was one visit by an Israeli prime minister that drove home the distance between the two great Jewish communities, not their closeness. Watching the leader of the Jewish state shower affection on our president just days after Bush’s decisive “thumping” from his voters — and no group “thumped” him more decisively than Jewish voters — was painful to all but the most militant hawks among us.

Olmert’s bizarre Rose Garden comment about America’s “great operation” in Iraq and the “stability” it brought to the Middle East was merely the icing on the cake, moving the sorry event into the realm of the surreal.






Find us on Facebook!
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • Russia's playing the "Jew card"...again.
  • "Israel should deal with this discrimination against Americans on its own merits... not simply as a bargaining chip for easy entry to the U.S." Do you agree?
  • For Moroccan Jews, the end of Passover means Mimouna. Terbhou ou Tse'dou! (good luck) How do you celebrate?
  • Calling all Marx Brothers fans!
  • What's it like to run the Palestine International Marathon as a Jew?
  • Does Israel have a racism problem?
  • This 007 hates guns, drives a Prius, and oh yeah — goes to shul with Scarlett Johansson's dad.
  • Meet Alvin Wong. He's the happiest man in America — and an observant Jew. The key to happiness? "Humility."
  • "My first bra was a training bra, a sports bra that gave the illusion of a flat chest."
  • "If the people of Rwanda can heal their broken hearts and accept the Other as human, so can we."
  • Aribert Heim, the "Butcher of Mauthausen," died a free man. How did he escape justice?
  • This guy skipped out on seder at his mom's and won a $1 million in a poker tournament. Worth it?
  • Sigal Samuel's family amulet isn't just rumored to have magical powers. It's also a symbol of how Jewish and Indian rituals became intertwined over the centuries. http://jd.fo/a3BvD Only three days left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • British Jews are having their 'Open Hillel' moment. Do you think Israel advocacy on campus runs the risk of excluding some Jewish students?
  • 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.