US President Barack Obama
Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger
Photo: Guy Assayag
While US President Barack Obama was busy orchestrating the assassination of terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden, his half brother Mark Ndesandjo reconnected with his Jewish roots on his first trip to Israel.
Chief rabbi says if US president seeks second term, he must release jailed Israeli spy
Ndesandjo, 45, was born to Barack Obama Senior's third wife, a Jewish American kindergarten teacher and the daughter of Lithuanian immigrants.
Ndesandjo's trip to the Holy Land was kept a secret for fear that he would fall victim to hostile attempts to avenge the US-perpetrated assassination of bin Laden.
One of the main purposes of Ndesandjo's visit was to meet with the Ashkenazi chief rabbi of Israel, Yona Metzger, to receive a blessing and a letter for his mother, Ruth Nidesand.
During Ndesandjo's stay he visited the Wailing Wall and other Jewish heritage sites in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. According to the Chief Rabbinate personnel, Ndesandjo said that he was very impressed with the people, the restaurants and the entertainment, but refused to specify which sites he visited for security reasons.
Noble favor: Releasing PollardMetzger's office employees were surprised to receive the unexpected guest, who stepped out of the elevator wearing a bandana topped with a skull cap.
"He looked so similar to his brother that even if he didn't say anything I would have recognized him," Metzger said.
"He said that his mother often reminds him to be proud of his Judaism," the rabbi added. "He seemed like a very sensitive Jew whose heart is invested in helping his fellow man."
According to Metzger, Ndesandjo has met with Obama a few times since the latter took office, and they are in regular telephone contact.
Before concluding their meeting, Metzger said that he asked Ndesandjo to do "a noble favor for the Jewish people" – to try to convince Obama to release Jonathan Pollard, who has been serving a life sentence in the US since he was convicted of spying for Israel in 1986.
Ndesandjo agreed, and asked Metzger to write a letter of encouragement to his mother, who lives in Kenya and works as a kindergarten teacher.
Ndesandjo studied Physics at Brown and Stanford, and has an MBA from Emory University. In 2002 he relocated from the US to China, where he married Liu Xuehua. In 2009 he published an autobiography titled "Nairobi to Shenzhen: A Novel of Love," where he describes, among other things, growing up with an abusive, alcoholic father. Ndesandjo currently runs an internet company, World Nexus, which advises Chinese companies on international markets.
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