Peppy music video wins Hebrew U. students tickets to Obama's speech
WATCH: Shir Ariely and Talia Schein cover Carly Rae Jepsen's hit song "Call Me Maybe," earning tickets to Obama's much-hyped speech Thursday.
Two Hebrew University students won tickets to United States President Barack Obama's highly anticipated speech in Jerusalem Thursday evening with a homemade music video asking the president to "Invite, us maybe?" sung to the tune of the Carly Rae Jepsen hit "Call Me Maybe."
Shir Ariely, 22, and Talia Schein, 21, are among the 20 winners of a contest for tickets held last week through the U.S. Embassy's Facebook page. They will join 600 students from Israeli universities and hundreds of members of the local and international media for the event at the International Convention Centre.
The friends said they screamed for joy when they learned their entry – sung in Hebrew and English with the chorus "Hey you don’t know us, and this is crazy / But here’s our Facebook, invite us, maybe?" – had won. Over 1,600 people entered the embassy's contest by "liking" the page and posting a comment about why they thought they should be invited.
While Ariely – who called Obama a "rock star" – said she just hopes to be inspired by the speech, other attendees voiced grander expectations of the president.
"My personal hope is that he will try to reinvigorate the Israeli public toward pursuing peace with the Palestinians," said Tel Aviv resident Itamar Barak, who won a ticket by writing that he admires Obama for being the first American president to "openly express support for gay rights."
Omri Horesh told Haaretz he would like Obama to offer encouragement to the country’s youth. "Young people in Israel feel hopeless, like they cannot do anything to change the situation they live in, whether we’re talking about the peace process or social problems like poverty," he said. "If the president can give us a little bit of light and hope, maybe something will change."
Horesh, 31, wrote on Facebook that if chosen, he would give his ticket to a woman on the cleaning staff at Sapir College whom he had befriended while studying there. The embassy notified Horesh on Saturday night that both he and the woman, Rachel Swissa from Sderot, were invited to attend. Reached at work on Wednesday, Swissa said she was excited and that she hopes Obama will pledge to release convicted spy Jonathan Pollard from jail.
Yiftach Dayan, an American history buff who won a ticket for posting about his fascination with American presidents – he knows all of their names and collects trivia about them – said Obama should seize the moment to prod Israel’s new leadership to take bold steps for peace.
"I think his visit comes at a good time," said the 26-year-old, who lives in Jerusalem and works at the Finance Ministry. "We have an opportunity with the formation of a new government. Obama’s speech could be a milestone in taking the peace process in a new direction."
At a press briefing last week, U.S. deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes said Obama specifically requested an audience of young Israelis for the major public address of his three-day visit.
In the days leading up to the speech, the U.S. Embassy distributed tickets to the major educational institutions in Israel. It did not provide any tickets to Ariel University in the West Bank, however, prompting protests and criticism from both Israeli and American lawmakers. An embassy official told Haaretz that, due to the limited number of seats in the convention center, tickets were provided only to universities that have partnered with the embassy.
Shachar Keren was one of 150 lucky students at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev who received a ticket through a lottery. Keren, 26, studies politics and works with an organization that promotes a two-state solution, Blue White Future. She said it was appropriate for Obama to address an audience of mostly students.
"We are the ones who need to take charge of this country," she said. "It’s very important for him to speak to the generation that’s going to lead our country in 10 to 15 years."