President Donald J. Trump has become the first sitting U.S. president to visit the Western Wall, which followed the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. The President kicked off the second leg of his first foreign trip abroad with a renewed for peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
The Western Wall is all that remains of the Second Jewish Temple erected by Herod the Great, which resulted in the encasement of the natural, steep hill known to Jews and Christians as the Temple Mount. While the Second Temple was completed and dedicated in 516 BCE, at around 19 BCE Herod began a massive expansion project on the Temple Mount, nearly doubling its size.
As is customary, President Trump placed his hand and a note on the Western Wall.
“We wanted to come straight to the holiest place in the entire Jewish world, the ‘Kotel Hamaaravi,’ the Western Wall, straight from the airport,” David Friedman, the new U.S. ambassador to Israel said. “I had the opportunity to say some prayers, prayed for of course the health of my family. I prayed for the president and I wished him success, especially on his upcoming trip.”
White House National Security Adviser Gen. H.R. McMaster told reporters that the President’s visit was “in connection with the theme to connect with three of the world’s great religions and to pay homage to each of these religious sites that he’s visiting.”
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, dating back to at least the fourth century, is one of the two holiest sites in Christianity. It is believed to be the site where Jesus of Nazareth was crucified, at a place known as “Calvary” or “Golgotha,” and Jesus’s empty tomb, where he is said to have been buried and resurrected.
“We have a rare opportunity to bring stability and peace in this region, defeat terror and create a future of peace,” President Trump said after speeches from Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Netanyahu. “We can only get there by working together – there is no other way.”
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who President Trump will meet with on his second day, has previously praised the U.S. president. At a joint press conference at the White House on Wednesday he has “hope” for peace “with” President Trump.
The President will focus on three major issues regarding U.S.-Israeli relations during the trip. In addition to resuming talks between Israel and the Palestinians, President Trump will discuss ending continued Israeli settlements in the West Bank and moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Trump’s Schedule on Israel Trip
At 6 p.m., President Trump will meet with Prime Minister Netanyahu at the King David Hotel, where he is staying in the rocket-resistant Presidential Suite. The meeting will be followed by dinner at 7:30 p.m. with the prime minister, his wife, Sara, and first lady Melania Trump at the prime minister’s official residence.
A separate dinner for Trump’s entourage and Israeli officials, including Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, will be held at the King David Hotel at 8 p.m.
President Trump will visit the Western Wall and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem’s Old City.
On Tuesday morning, the president is expected to travel to Bethlehem to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas where he will “urge Palestinian leaders to take productive steps toward peace,” according to the White House website.
While Palestinian officials have not released an official schedule, Trump is expected to meet with Abbas at the Bethlehem governor’s office and may visit the Church of the Nativity.
At 1 p.m., he will attend a wreath-laying ceremony at the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum, and then Trump is scheduled to deliver a speech at the Israel Museum at 2 p.m. “celebrating the unique history of Israel and of the Jewish people,” according to the White House website.
At 4 p.m., he will take off for the third leg of his first foreign trip–Italy and the Vatican.