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 December 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.