One of the joys of my job is being on the receiving end of various letters and dispatches from far-flung places, ones that are often full of wisdom about matters local, regional, global, and intergalactic.
Today, I received one such note from Ori Rosen, an Israeli musician and a business student at the IDC Herzliya. Rosen had the opportunity to attend President Obama’s speech in Jerusalem yesterday. Here’s what he had to say about it:
We all saw in the last few days the presidential visit in Israel. The ceremonies, the small talks, the wide smiles, and the general optimistic atmosphere is just a small part from a long list of gestures, both sides had, hopefully trying to crack the ice and to open a new chapter in their relationships. From my point of view, the interesting part about Obama’s visit, is that apparently Obama understood something about Israel that he just couldn’t realize before. He understood that Israel is not like an every other country and that the Israeli people are emotionally driven much more easily. You need to stand just in one red traffic light in Israel to understand that. If you try to criticize Israel, even about the smallest thing, you need to prepare yourself to a wave of hard feelings from the Israeli public. To be able to do so, and in the same time to make people listen to you, is a form of art that just few people know how to do.
The speech yesterday, at which I was present, was the high point of Obama’s strong realization of that. Obama proved again that he is not just a master of his words, but also a master in understanding the needs of the other. Obama said the same things that he said over and over in the last four years: criticized Israel’s settlement policy, talked about the need for a Palestinian independent state and so on. But the difference is that now he could also reach the hearts of the people who stood in front of him. In other words, he learned the art of talking to the Israeli people.
Obama came to Israel in a time of despair and stagnation, a time when the Israeli-Palestinian conflict seems to be an unsolved reality, a time when Israel is isolated more than ever and its relationship with the US is as bad as ever. Obama’s incredible ability to bring hope to people is what we all searched for a lot of time.