Sderot, Israel – Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama, accompanied by Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, visited the shell-shocked Israeli city yesterday. He met with city Mayor Eli Moyal and family of Mr. and Mrs. Pinchas and Aliza Amar, whose house was destroyed by a Hamas’ Qassam rocket last Dec. Their home still is under construction after being devastated by the attack.

“We’ve been waiting here for over an hour,” said Mrs. Racheli Barr, who lives near the Amars. “It is not every day that the next president of the United States comes to see our situation.”

The Amar family greeted Mr. Obama with a framed picture of Pinchas and Aliza in their house after the rocket struck as well as a bamboo stalk to symbolize their hopes for him.

“The meaning of the bamboo is that if you take care of it and it blossoms, so shall you,” Mrs. Amar said. “But if you do not take care of it, and it withers, you will follow the same path.”

After meeting with the family, Mr. Obama crossed the street to shake hands and briefly speak with several bystanders. Leading up to the visit, the Amars had high hopes for Mr. Obama.

“It shows that Obama knows it is better to be close to the people as a leader, rather than to be like a king who only rules from the throne,” Mr. Amar said.” I don’t feel like we have to tell [Obama] a lot because he understands poverty and struggle [from a personal standpoint].”

This visit has also strengthened the family’s resolve and excitement to return to their home once it is built, despite an eight-month struggle through legal “red tape” to reach a compromise with the government allowing its rebuilding.

“It is a special place,” Mrs. Amar said. “When they called to say they wanted to visit our house, we told them that it was in the middle of construction, but we were told that he wanted to see our home.”

Sen. John McCain had visited the Amars’ home only a few months before, as had German diplomats as well as other foreign representatives.

“There must be a reason why foreign officials visit our house,” Mrs. Amar said.

At a press conference in Sderot, following his visit to the Amar home, Mr. Obama said he endorses Israel’s right to defend itself against rockets.

“If someone were sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I would do anything to stop it,” Mr. Obama said.

David Bedein can be reached at dbedein@israelbehindthenews.com. His Web site is www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com

©The Bulletin 2008

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David Bedein is an MSW community organizer and an investigative journalist.   In 1987, Bedein established the Israel Resource News Agency at Beit Agron to accompany foreign journalists in their coverage of Israel, to balance the media lobbies established by the PLO and their allies.   Mr. Bedein has reported for news outlets such as CNN Radio, Makor Rishon, Philadelphia Inquirer, Los Angeles Times, BBC and The Jerusalem Post, For four years, Mr. Bedein acted as the Middle East correspondent for The Philadelphia Bulletin, writing 1,062 articles until the newspaper ceased operation in 2010. Bedein has covered breaking Middle East negotiations in Oslo, Ottawa, Shepherdstown, The Wye Plantation, Annapolis, Geneva, Nicosia, Washington, D.C., London, Bonn, and Vienna. Bedein has overseen investigative studies of the Palestinian Authority, the Expulsion Process from Gush Katif and Samaria, The Peres Center for Peace, Peace Now, The International Center for Economic Cooperation of Yossi Beilin, the ISM, Adalah, and the New Israel Fund.   Since 2005, Bedein has also served as Director of the Center for Near East Policy Research.   A focus of the center's investigations is The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). In that context, Bedein authored Roadblock to Peace: How the UN Perpetuates the Arab-Israeli Conflict - UNRWA Policies Reconsidered, which caps Bedein's 28 years of investigations of UNRWA. The Center for Near East Policy Research has been instrumental in reaching elected officials, decision makers and journalists, commissioning studies, reports, news stories and films. In 2009, the center began decided to produce short movies, in addition to monographs, to film every aspect of UNRWA education in a clear and cogent fashion.   The center has so far produced seven short documentary pieces n UNRWA which have received international acclaim and recognition, showing how which UNRWA promotes anti-Semitism and incitement to violence in their education'   In sum, Bedein has pioneered The UNRWA Reform Initiative, a strategy which calls for donor nations to insist on reasonable reforms of UNRWA. Bedein and his team of experts provide timely briefings to members to legislative bodies world wide, bringing the results of his investigations to donor nations, while demanding reforms based on transparency, refugee resettlement and the demand that terrorists be removed from the UNRWA schools and UNRWA payroll.   Bedein's work can be found at: www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com and www.cfnepr.com. A new site,unrwa-monitor.com, will be launched very soon.

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