From Gaza to Chicago
The Hyatt convention center is a vast, labyrinthine, underground structure that hosts many events simultaneously (among this week's events: an Overeaters Anonymous gathering and the Tax Credit Developers Summit), so when a bunch of stocky, stern-looking fellows with corded earpieces showed up and starting erecting barriers outside the Grand Ballroom, I figured it must be a political appearance of some kind. Maybe John Kerry doing his standup routine?
On closer look, these guys weren't WASPish enough to be Secret Service; they were more, ahh... Levantine in appearance. And they weren't messing around: When I started to stroll through one of the metal detectors they almost wrestled me to the ground.
Turns out the Friends of the Israeli Defense Forces were having a big fundraiser in Chicago. The guys with the earpieces, I figure, were ex-Mossad.
In addition to providing support for widows and orphans of slain Israeli soldiers, the FIDF functions as a sort of USO for the Israeli Army, putting on cultural and recreational programs for "the young men and women soldiers of Israel who defend the Jewish homeland."
As one attendee at Mobile Business Expo told me, "I think I'm going to have a long dinner outside the hotel tonight."
The event staff at MBE were given wristbands so they could pass through the checkpoints. Printed on the blue wristbands: "I support the Israeli Defense Forces." I managed to swipe one as a souvenir. It'll look great with my keffiyeh.
— Richard Martin, Senior Editor, Unstrung