Great Stories From ‘The Prime Ministers’

14 Jun

I hate reading books. Blogs are ok, because they’re short and to the point. Twitter would be cool too if I could only shuck that last vestige of self-respect and take the plunge. On Shabbos though, those aren’t options. And with these long summer Shabbosim, you’d better get something to read or you’ll be bored into walking somewhere with the womenfolk.

All in all therefore, I wasn’t that upset when my grandfather bought me a copy of “The Prime Ministers” (by Yehuda Avner).  I looked at some meforshim on the Parshah to win a fight online, read some George Orwell essays*, and finally cracked open the 750+ page tome.

Once inside, the book was actually very interesting. I could give about two shits for the politics, it all took place before I was born, but the book isn’t about politics directly. It’s laid out as mostly personal stories from Avner’s memory. What amazed me was how normal all these famous people were. Truman was a funny guy who disliked the fancy ‘Hahvuhd’ crew at the State Department. Menachem Begin and Jehan Sadat (Anwar’s wife) wrote to each other to commiserate over losing their spouses. Margaret Thatcher couldn’t take being out of the power seat. Etc. etc.

One great story told took place during a White House dinner thrown by President Ford in honor of Prime Minister Rabin’s visit. Apparently, Yehuda Avner was the only one at the event that kept Kosher, so when everyone else was served a plate with something brown and meaty, he got a two foot tall tower of lettuce, cottage cheese and watermelon. This caused a commotion at the event, and Ford asked Rabin what was going on with Avner. “It’s his birthday”, Rabin answers, whereupon Ford starts singing “Happy Birthday, dear Yeduha” (his name was marked down wrong on his card) and the entire party joins in. Afterwards, Rabin, desperately trying to dance with Betty Ford, is saved by an embarrassed and sympathetic Kissinger, and Avner is finally able to ask him why he told Ford it was his birthday. “How would it look in the Israeli papers”, Rabin answers, “That you kept kosher at the White House, and I didn’t? I’ll have a government crisis on my hands. Ani Meshuga??”

It takes everyone down a peg from the automatic ‘God’ status that comes as a result of being famous. Everybody is human, and the people we think of as the personification of Good and Evil are usually just struggling to do the best they can with the hand they were dealt- almost like the rest of us.


*That’s where smart people like me go to for light reading, in case you’re wondering. No, not comic books and Uncle John’s. Those aren’t mine, they’re for my cousin.



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