The Jerusalem Post
My Remembrance Day phone call from Joe Biden
I was already feeling very emotional on Tuesday night, after watching the Remembrance Day ceremony from the Western Wall on television.
As I sat there, absorbing the touching messages by President Reuven Rivlin and IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kohavi, my phone rang.
It was US President Joe Biden.
It was aide to the president with whom I’ve had contact in the past, but after the briefest of pleasantries he said: “Hold on.”
And then I found myself on the phone with the president.
“I’ll make this brief,” said Biden. “No substance – I know this is a sacred night in Israel. My aides have told me about you. I remember that many years ago, you interviewed me on [Remembrance Day] and then played the interview on your radio station on Independence Day.”
He was referring to my days working at the Israel Broadcasting Authority, when I did extensive diplomatic and political reporting for the English-language service of the IBA’s Kol Yisrael radio network.
The previous conversation with Biden had been when he was on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, including a period when he served as the committee’s chairman.
I had been trying for some time to arrange that interview, and when I offered to conduct it to mark the occasion of Israel’s Independence Day, he accepted the invitation.
The aide through whom I had arranged that radio interview long ago no longer works for Biden. The current contact was formed with the assistance of a former White House aide to Barack Obama, with whom I became connected in 2009 through a senior US Jewish figure.
During the two terms of the Obama presidency, the presidential aide and I would speak periodically about Israeli life and issues relating to Israel and the American Jewish community. The conversations were informal, and generally not for direct attribution in my news reports.
However in the final months of Obama’s second term, I was given the opportunity to chat with the president directly over the phone on two occasions.
Still, it was a total surprise when years later I picked up the phone to hear the White House on the other end of the line.
“Thank you for all you do,” Biden said to me in Tuesday’s conversation. “You show people the beautiful side of Israel.”
I thanked him, the conversation ended, and I went back to observing Remembrance Day after talking to the president of the United States.