Photo: AP
Obama signing guest book at Herzl memorial

Obama's last day in Israel takes him to Yad Vashem, Bethlehem

After calling on Israel's future generation to challenge leaders, march towards peace, visiting US president turns to past with visit to Rabin's gravesite, Yad Vashem and Church of Nativity in Bethlehem

On Thursday he called on Israel's youth, the "next generation," to challenge their leaders and march with him on the road to peace, on Friday he looks back to the past: US President Barack Obama's final day in Israel began with a visit to Mount Herzl where he laid a wreath at the gravesite of Theodor Herzl and wrote a short message in the visitors' book.


Obama then visited assassinated Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin's grave. The US president was accompanied by President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Former Prime Minister Rabin's daughter Dalia Rabin, his son Yuval and his grandchildren were also at the site as Obama laid a wreath presented by two US marines and placed a rock on the headstone, a Jewish tradition.


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The US president spoke at length with Rabin's family, thanking them for the visit and saying that it was a "great honor." He told Rabin's children that their father inspired his Thursday speech.


Obama initially placed a stone on Rabin's wife's side of the grave, then returned to place one atop Rabin's side. In a gesture linking the US and Israel, the stone placed on Rabin's grave was from the grounds of the Martin Luther King memorial in Washington, the White House said.


He joked that "Bibi arranged for perfect weather," using Netanyahu's familiar name. He then added that "Shimon plied me with wine" at the official state dinner Thursday evening.

מרכין ראש מול קבר רבין. "נותן השראה"

Obama at Rabin's gravesite


During small talk with Rabin's family about the singer who performed at the dinner, Obama pointed out that he was known to sing, too. "They had me on YouTube," he said with a laugh.


Obama then visited Yad Vashem accompanied by the museum's chairman Avner Shalev and former Chief Rabbi Yisrael Lau a survivor of the Buchenwald Concentration camp who lost both parents in the Holocaust. US Secretary of State John Kerry also joined the visit.


Obama visited Yad Vashem's Hall of Names, a circular chamber that contains original testimony documenting every Holocaust victim ever identified.


"Nothing could be more powerful," Obama said.


United States President Barack Obama signed the Yad Vashem guestbook and then said: "We see the barbarism that enfolds when we begin to see other human beings as less than us."


Obama added: "Here on your ancient land let it be said: The state of Israel doesn’t exist because of the Holocaust, but due to the State of Israel, the Holocaust will never happen again"  


The president is also set to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before a return to the Palestinian Authority for a meeting with Mahmoud Abbas and a visit to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. Then at around 3 pm Obama will return to Jerusalem for the short helicopter ride to Ben Gurion Airport and his farewell to Israel.


On Thursday night President Shimon Peres held a ceremonial dinner in Jerusalem held in honor of the visiting American President. Among the 120 guests at the President's Residence in the capital were the president of the Supreme Court, the governor of the Bank of Israel, the IDF chief of staff and the directors of the Mossad and the Shin Bet.


Nobel Prize Laureate Ada Yonath and author David Grossman were also on hand, as was newly-crowned Miss Israel Titi Aynaw.


Peres said in his speech, "This morning several rockets were shot from the Gaza Strip towards civilian targets, including Sderot, which you have visited (...) Today the enemies of peace spoke in the only language they know, the language of terror. I am convinced that together we will defeat terror.


מצחקקים בסעודה הנשיאותית (צילום: רויטרס)

Good spirits: At Presidential dinner


Earlier Thursday, President Barack Obama delivered an impassioned appeal for Israel to recognize that compromise will be necessary to secure peace and lasting security for the Jewish state.


Telling a lively audience of some 600 university students that the United States is their country's best friend and most important ally, Obama, who began his address ahead of schedule, said the US will never compromise in its own commitment to Israel's defense, particularly against threats such as the one posed by Iran and its nuclear program. 


But he also stressed that Israel must make peace with the Palestinians if it is to ensure its survival and long-term viability as a homeland for the Jewish people. Israeli occupation of areas that the Palestinians claim for their state must end, he said.


Reuters and AP contributed to the report



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פרסום ראשון: 03.22.13, 08:54
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