American-Israelis cheer on President Obama at inauguration parties in Jerusalem, T.A. bars
They cheered excitedly after every sentence in the speech, they wiped a tear and clapped their hands, hugged each other and rose to sing the U.S. national anthem.
"I feel [like I'm] in another world. Finally we're getting America back," said Joanne Yaron excitedly, her eyes glued to one of the television screens in a Jerusalem bar, where Jewish Americans, new immigrants and temporary residents, celebrated Barack Obama's inauguration as 44th president of the United States.
Yaron, a Democratic Party activist in Israel, is certain that the Obama era is "good for Israel, good for the Middle East, good for the whole world."
The American community in Israel was stuck fast to the television screen yesterday, in small groups, in private homes and in large gatherings. The United States Embassy in Tel Aviv held a closed party. Almost 300 people reserved places at Zollis Pub in central Jerusalem, where the local Democratic Party branch had organized a party celebrating Obama's inauguration. Another party was held in the capital's German Colony.
Guy Simen, who worked at Obama's campaign offices in New Jersey and New York, said "many of the Americans living in Israel are in their early 20s and this is the first time in their adult life that they are witnessing such a monumental American event. Everyone's talking about it, sending e-mails."
"Even people who did not support Obama are excited, because they know the whole world is watching this event - and they feel close to home. They know that now we've elected a man who is supposed to change the world and many people are proud to be Americans. Many people are also happy that Bush is going home," he said.
A lot of beer, ketchup and tears of excitement flowed in the bar. On every wall, a flat screen showed footage of the Mall in Washington. Pictures of the incoming president hung on the walls beside the words "Hope" and "Change."
"It's an evolution and a revolution," said Chicago native Steven Potashnick as he looked upon one of the screens.
"It's strange not to be in Chicago watching this," Potashnick, 59, added. His wife had been at a fund-raising event there about five years ago, when the then-unknown Obama ran for the U.S. Senate.
"There were a lot of other candidates there, as well, but when I heard Obama speak, I knew he was something special," she said.
National and international reporters despaired in their search for native Israelis to interview. The bar, located in the capital's trendy Nahalat Shiva neighborhood, was filled to capacity with cheering Americans, mostly Democrats, but also a handful who would have preferred a Republican president.
"It's an important day when you can proud to be American again," said Michigan native Judith Horwitz, a 27-year-old physician who had tears in her eyes after the new president uttered his oath.
"My father marched with Martin Luther King, so to be here today is a huge triumph," added Horwitz, who moved from New York to Tel Aviv last March. "It's inspiring to know that the American spirit is still strong after the last eight years."
Dan Greenwald, of New Jersey, came to Israel to study in the Efrat yeshiva. "I'm excited, I think Obama can help deal with America's major challenges. He understands the importance of forming a wide coalition. He is also a great supporter of Israel. This is a great day for all of us," he said.
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