Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Bedouin Obama's Baklava

A platter of sweets, all dripping with honey, is proffered at the Jerusalem bureau of the venerable Times of London. The occasion? Some 8000 Bedouin Obamas from northern Israel are hailing America’s new chief and claiming him as one of their own. And how exactly does this tribe link their blood line to the new American leaders? Ah, that evidence is still out. But it doesn’t seem to make much difference.

James Hider, the Times’ intrepid man in the Middle East, was bemused when Abdul Rahman Sheikh Abdullah, a 53-year-old local Bedouin elder from Bir al-Maksour, started whooping and hollering over the electoral victory of a long-lost relative. And a Bedouin connection to Barack Obama is mind-boggling, since the Kenyan and Kansas clans are so well documented. Still, the Bedoins consider how the president-elect’s lifestyle has been semi-Nomadic, shifting from Hawaii to Indonesia and back, then California, Massachusetts, Illinois and Washington DC. As soon as the tribe in Israel started to gather and share the sweet news of the family’s good fortune, word reached the inquisitive Times reporter, who hauled his share of cellophane-wrapped pastries back to the office rather than splotch his notebook with honey.

Now Sheikh Abdullah is determined to hold a large barbecue in Obama’s honor and slaughter a dozen goats to feed the villagers. The action will take place up in Northern Israel, near the Sea of Galilee, where Jesus is believed to have walked on water a couple thousand years ago. At least it's not at Armageddon.

According to Hider, the elderly mother of the sheikh first spotted the family resemblance when she watched the charismatic Illinois senator on television. She insists that Obama is a dead ringer for an African migrant laborer who once worked for a wealthy sheikh in British Mandate Palestine during the 1930s. At 95, the mother’s memory of the distant past seems remarkably sharp.

“The Africans would sometimes marry local Bedouin girls and start families, though, like many migrant workers, would just as frequently return home after several years,” Abdullah told the Times.

One of those men was a relative of Barack Obama’s Kenyan grandmother, Sheikh Abdullah maintains.

He estimates that his tribe extends to as many as 8,000 members, all of them loosely connected to the president-elect.”

Long-lost relatives are bound to start appearing from all branches of the Obama family tree and try to converge on the White House. These Galilee Bedouins may represent a rather shady offshoot that rambled quite a distance off in the Holy Land. An undeniable surge of affection for the new American leader is transcending distance and going around the globe. That’s going to be some inauguration party! (Meanwhile, one of Hider's colleagues at the Torygraph divulged a hot tip that the new American leader could have feet of clay: A set of garden gnomes in East Jerusalem is also asserting Obama lineage.

cross-posted from Feral Beast.

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