The Herald Bulletin

Morning Update

Nation & World

March 22, 2013

Obama in Jordan for talks with King Abdullah II

(Continued)

AMMAN, Jordan —

The two leaders met again in a trailer next to a tent on the tarmac at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv before Obama left the country.

In between those meetings, Obama squeezed in a stop in Bethlehem in the West Bank to visit the Church of the Nativity.

Obama had been scheduled to take a helicopter to Bethlehem but had to change plans due to unusually high winds. The route gave Obama a clear look at Israel's separation barrier with the West Bank, which runs south of Jerusalem and is the subject of weekly protests by Palestinians.

About 300 Palestinians and international pilgrims gathered near the Nativity Church, awaiting Obama's arrival. But a knot of protesters along the route held up signs stating: "Gringo, return to your colony" and "US supports Israeli injustice."

At a nearby mosque, Mohammed Ayesh, a Muslim religious official in Bethlehem, issued a plea to Obama in a speech to worshippers: "America, where are your values? Where are the human rights? Isn't it time that you interfere to make it stop?"

Amid high security, Obama toured the church with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. They stopped at the Grotto of the Nativity, which is said to stand where Jesus Christ was born. About 20 children waving U.S. and Palestinian flags greeted Obama in a courtyard outside the sanctuary. He posed for photographs with Abbas and Bethlehem's mayor, Vera Baboun.

Earlier in Jerusalem, Obama and his Israeli hosts arrived at the Herzl grave site under cloudless skies. Obama approached Herzl's resting place alone and bowed his head in silence. He turned briefly to ask Netanyahu where to place a small stone in the Jewish custom, then laid the stone atop the grave.

"It is humbling and inspiring to visit and remember the visionary who began the remarkable establishment of the State of Israel," Obama wrote in the Mt. Herzl guestbook. "May our two countries possess the same vision and will to secure peace and prosperity for future generations."

At Rabin's grave nearby, Obama was greeted by Rabin family members. He initially placed a stone on Rabin's wife's side of the grave, then returned to place one atop Rabin's side. The stone placed on Rabin's grave was from the grounds of the Martin Luther King memorial in Washington, the White House said.

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