U.S. presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama paid a visit to the embattled Israeli city of Sderot, Wednesday, taking time to meet Mayor Eli Moyal and one Sderot family whose house was destroyed by a Qassam rocket.

Dozens of Sderot residents lined the streets around the house of Pinchas and Aliza Amar, whose house is still under construction after being destroyed by a kassam rocket in December 2007, hoping to catch a glimpse of Obama, as well as Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni.

“We’ve been waiting here for over an hour,” said Racheli Barr, who lives nearby the Amars. “It is not every day that the next president of the United States comes to see our situation.”

The Amar family greeted Obama with a framed picture of Pinchas and Aliza in their house after the rocket struck, as well as a bamboo stalk to symbolize their hopes for him.

“The meaning of the bamboo is that if you take care of it and it blossoms, so shall you,” Aliza Amar said. “But if you do not take care of it, and it withers, you will follow the same path.”

After meeting with the family, Obama crossed the street to shake hands and briefly speak with several bystanders.

Leading up to the visit, the Amars had high hopes for Obama.

“It shows that Obama knows it is better to be close to the people as a leader, rather than to be like a king who only rules from the throne,” he said.

“I don’t feel like we have to tell [Obama] a lot because he understands poverty and struggle [from a personal standpoint],” Aliza added.

This visit has also strengthened the family’s resolve and excitement to return to their home once it is built, despite an eight-month struggle through legal “yellow tape” to reach a compromise with the government to have their home rebuilt.

“It is a special place,” Aliza said. “When they called to say they wanted to visit our house, we told them that it was in the middle of construction, but we were told that he wanted to see our home.

She pointed out that Sen. McCain only a few months before, and diplomats from Germany, as well as other foreign representatives have made the same visit to their home upon visiting Sderot.

“There is a reason that nobody who comes to Sderot skips over our house.”

Video: Meital Ohayon

Photo: Rick Burres


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