From the moment US President barack Obama's plane lands, and until he leaves the country on Friday afternoon, this group, mostly women, will be attached to Obama at the hip.
The 25 Foreign Ministry employees will be coordinating his visit. At their helm: Liora Herzl, Deputy Director General – North American Division; Talya Lador-Fresher, chief of protocol; and Orit Moshe, who is responisble for the presidential itinerary.
Lador-Fresher and Moshe will sit in the War Room vehicle, at the head of the giant entourage that will take Obama through the streets of Jerusalem. They will even sleep at the King David Hotel, in case President Obama wants to eat or drink something in the middle of the night. The goal is to fulfill every need. From a backup in scheduling, to arranging a tailor if a button were to need to be sewn.
“The biggest headache is delays,” explained Lador-Fresher. “The moment there is a delay, it drags over the entire day, and every contact person (for upcoming events) must be notified. Our job is to make sure everything goes smoothly.” In addition, they must ensure that the entire entourage is in the vehicles before they hit the road.
A few days ago, at the height of preparations, Lador-Fresher invited Obama’s pre-event staff on a tour of the Mahane Yehuda Market and lunch at the restaurant “Eema.” “They were really happy to get a break and said that usually, on these types of trips, they don't have a moment to breathe.”
The team is also overseeing the visit of Secretary of State John Kerry, who will be accompanying Obama.
“There was an amazing spirit of cooperation from everyone on our team, everybody put personal issues aside so that the visit would work,” Lador-Fresher said. The protocol department of the Foreign Ministry hosts some 400 dignitaries every year, but there is no doubt that the Obama visit is the pinnacle.
Obama’s hosts tell of the tense moments as they wait for his arrival, and of sleep-deprived nights. They know they will be serving Obama around the clock, but due to his tight security, they know they might not even get a handshake.
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