Six Degrees of Sally Oren
Forget six degrees of Kevin Bacon. Sally Oren can connect Janis Joplin, Jerry Garcia, and Jefferson Airplane to Bibi Netanyau!
Scholars of Middle East politics and students of the San Francisco–centered psychedelic-rock movement of the 1960s have for years asked the same vexing question: Just how many degrees of separation exist between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia?The answer, it turns out, is one. The person who connects Benjamin Netanyahu directly to Jerry Garcia—and Shimon Peres to Jim Morrison, and, for that matter, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to Janis Joplin—is Sally Oren, the wife of Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to the United States. Oren, who today is in her early 60s, plays the role of diplomat’s spouse with distinction and grace. She hosts embassy functions and speaks at Jewish communal gatherings; she wears elegant gowns and attends White House parties. Forty-five years ago, however, she played Frisbee with the Grateful Dead and served as Jefferson Airplane’s muse.I have known Oren for years, but only recently did I learn about her strange and enchanting past. At a dinner that included senators and Supreme Court justices, her daughter, Lia, told me—apropos of what, exactly, I cannot recall—“Jefferson Airplane wrote a song about my mother.”I trusted Lia, but something like this demanded confirmation.“Did Jefferson Airplane write a song about you?,” I asked Oren. Somewhat abashed, she answered, “Two songs, actually.”
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