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ISRAEL: Among Obama's first guests at the White House?

November 5, 2008 |  3:26 pm

Kassam_pic_2Pinhas Amar has never visited America, but America has visited him. Twice.

December brought the Amars a Kassam rocket that landed in their kitchen and devastated the house. March brought them Sen. John McCain and July brought them Sen. Barack Obama, now president-elect. And now, Pinhas hopes, January might bring them to the White House.

The family felt honored to be chosen to represent the face of Sderot and put a name and face to the Kassam attacks. Graciously and respectfully, the Amars welcomed both candidates, patiently and politely explaining their situation. Pinhas had stood in the ruins of his kitchen with Obama, recounting to the senator the details of the incident.

PinhasPinhas, a religious man and a sofer stam, or ritual scribe, blessed Obama for success. Obama for his part promised that if he is elected, Pinhas would be one of his first guests in the White House. "I said, 'Don't forget me,' and indeed I believe he will not," Pinhas had told the Los Angeles Times that day.

This morning, Pinhas Amar was watching history unfold from his bed. Two weeks ago, he fell off a  ladder and shattered his ankle. Propped up on pillows, he followed Obama's victory, recalling the Democrat's visit to Sderot and his promise to remember them.

Obama1_2The election results came in the early morning in Israel, but the Amars were already awake after a predawn dash to their reinforced concrete safety room during a Kassam rocket attack. The attack disturbed the calm that had taken effect in June, the month before Obama visited Sderot. Pinhas believes the visit to Sderot and the sight of his house, which was hit while his family was sleeping inside, had left an impression on the man who will now be the next U.S. president.

The Amars were very taken with him, impressed with how he carried himself with both charisma and humility. If Obama is elected, he will become a part of American history, like Kennedy, Pinhas had said.

Wednesday, Pinhas was glad that the family's prayers were answered. "I am happy for him and happy for America and believe he will bring significant change to America and the world. I extend to him my congratulations, along with the prayer that, just like peace prevailed throughout the land for 40 years when King Solomon took rule, so may he bring peace to the land--ours and others--for at least as long."

Pinhas has never been to the U.S., but he has a deep interest in America and love for its people and says it has always been his dream to visit. If Obama remembers his promise, perhaps Pinhas can fulfill his dream to visit not only the U.S. but also the White House itself, with Obama in it. "Witnessing his inauguration at the White House would really be something," he says this morning, hopeful that Obama remembers. "I would be honored to be invited and glad to attend."

And meanwhile, Pinhas wishes to convey to Obama his personal congratulations and wishes for his success. He hopes to send Obama a personal email, wishing him the same. "I still have his card."

-- Batsheva Sobelman in Jerusalem

P.S. Get news from the Middle East in your mailbox every day. The Los Angeles Times distributes a free daily newsletter with the latest headlines from the Middle East, including the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. You can subscribe by logging in at the website here, clicking on the box for "L.A. Times updates" and then clicking on the "World: Mideast" box.

Top: A photo of Aliza and Pinhas Amar, standing in their roofless kitchen. The family gave it to Sen. Obama, with the inscription: "Thank you for caring about all of us in Sderot. Let there be Shalom, Peace."

Bottom: Sen. Obama visits Sderot, left; Pinhas Amar, right.

Credit: BATSHEVA SOBELMAN/Los Angeles Times

P.S. Get news from the Middle East in your mailbox every day. The Los Angeles Times distributes a free daily newsletter with the latest headlines from the Middle East, including the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. You can subscribe by logging in at the website here, clicking on the box for "L.A. Times updates" and then clicking on the "World: Mideast" box.

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