On November 8, 2016, as millions of Americans cast their ballots, the American Embassy hosted an extravagant election night celebration. The event featured American food and music, and patriotic games and party favors, and was attended by a maximum capacity crowd at the Dan Panorama hotel in Tel Aviv, overlooking the sea.
The evening featured a full roster of events and activities. Guests enjoyed American cuisine and live music. Embassy representatives around the room wore special badges to designate them as “election experts,” happy to answer questions about the American electoral process and American politics. Stands around the party offered a variety of election-related contests, as well as posters with interesting facts and explanations about American elections.
The election games included Bingo; “Match the vice president;” “Who said that” (presidential quotes); a trivia faceoff, an Instagram contest and more. At the end of the evening, a raffle was held for the winners of each of the competitions. But every participant went home a winner, with American flags and stress balls “to relieve the stress of the elections.” There was also a photobooth, with photos then getting superimposed onto backgrounds like Mount Rushmore and the White House.
Ambassador Dan Shapiro spoke to the crowd, touching on the divisiveness of the recent election and the polarization of the American two-party system, especially in recent years. Ambassador Shapiro invoked the words of President Abraham Lincoln, who he called perhaps the greatest US president, and who sacrificed time, effort and ultimately his own life to bridge political differences and reunite the nation.
The ambassador also spoke about the importance of the right to free and fair elections. He noted that the commitment to free elections was one of the many liberal democratic values shared between Israel and the United States, something. Ambassador Shapiro also thanked all of the Embassy staff whose hard work over the last few months enabled Americans living in Israel to cast their votes for the presidential and local races.
At the end of his speech the ambassador had another announcement to make. This one wasn’t about the elections, but it was about an event no less momentous in American history. Pulling out a baseball cap and placing it on his head, Ambassador Shapiro connected the celebration to the World Series victory of his beloved Chicago Cubs, an event for which generations of Chicago baseball fans waited for over a century.
The festivities were due to continue, with the party continuing into the early hours of the morning. Early Wednesday morning, the US Embassy’s American Center in Jerusalem hosted breakfast for all those who wanted to watch the election results coming in. For some the election results brought excitement, for others disappointment, but the Embassy ensured that everyone went home well-fed, with a smile on their face, and a greater appreciation for American values, culture and the electoral process. In a time and place in which politics can too often divide people, the celebration and the ambassador’s words were important reminders that diplomacy—between people and nations, can be a powerful and valuable tool for bringing peace and reconciliation.
Article wirtten by Steven Aiello founder and director of the "Debate for Peace program"
Photos Silvia Golan