Obama Dons Yarmulke at Yad Vashem; Peres Praises His "Moving Humanity"

Alert…Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, has crossed into the West Bank on his way to meet with leaders of the Palestinian National Authority in Ramallah.

This trip comes after several other meetings, with Defense Minister Ehud Barack and Likud Party chairman Benjamin Netanyahu this morning and a visit to the Holocaust Memorial and Museum Yad Vashem.

Obama left his hotel this morning, traveling in a bullet-proof limousine that was part of a nine-car motorcade. Upon arrival at Yad Vashem, Obama was greeted by Avner Shalev, chairman of Yad Vashem.

An Israeli journalist called out to Obama: “Can you ensure that there will be no second Holocaust?”

Obama walked into the museum’s main building without responding. At some point during his tour, away from the media's fixed gaze, Obama met with the Israeli border police officer who Tuesday shot and killed the Palestinian wreaking havoc and injuring Israelis with a bulldozer outside the King David Hotel. 

In the “Hall of Remembrance,” Obama put on a white yarmulke, lit the “eternal flame” and placed a white chrysanthemum wreath on a stone slab.

Obama then went to the museum's Janusz Korczak Plaza, where he signed the guest book.

"I am grateful to you Yad Vashem and all of those responsible for this remarkable institution," he wrote. "At a time of great peril and promise, war and strife we are blessed to have such a powerful reminder of man's potential for great evil but also our capacity to rise from tragedy and remake our world. Let our children come here and know this history so they can add their voices to proclaim never again. And may we remember those who perished, not only as victims but also as individuals, who hoped and loved and dreamed like us and who have become symbols of the human spirit."

Shalev gave Obama a book on Yad Vashem, which the senator called an “extraordinary gift.”

"This is my second visit to Yad Vashem," Obama told reporters. "I am always taken back to, sort of, the core question of humanity that the Holocaust raises. And that is, on the one hand man's great capacity for evil but on the other hand the capacity to join together and stop evil if we are willing to speak out in one voice."

Obama continued, "and so, despite its record of monumental tragedy this ultimately is a place of hope. Because it reminds us of our obligations and our responsibilities and hopefully creates a better future for our children and grandchildren."

Obama said he hoped that during his next visit he would be accompanied by his daughters.

Once again an Israeli journalist asked the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee how he’d help prevent a second Holocaust. "Senator can you assure Israel that there will be no second Holocaust despite Iran's threat to wipe us off the map?" he asked.

Obama demurred, saying that it wasn't appropriate to answer the question there.

"This is Yad Vashem!" the journalist responded.

Obama said he would answer the question at a later press availability.

Next stop: a visit with Israeli President Shimon Peres at Beit HaNasi (House of the president), accompanied by James Steinberg and Daniel Shapiro, two of  Obama's top Middle East advisors, as well as foreign affairs adviser Dr. Susan Rice and campaign strategist David "Ax" Axelrod.

Peres' remarks to Obama were gushing."I want to welcome you here to the Holy Land, Jerusalem, a country that loves the United States of America and has the highest regard for you as a person," Peres said. "Permit me to speak as a young man to a young man," joked the 84-year-old. "They say the future belongs to the young -- they are wrong. The present belongs to the young. The young should do now take care of the burning issues."

Peres said his greatest wish was for the next American president "to be a great president of the United States….Senator I read your two books and your articles and I do believe if you ask me what is my overall impression I would say a moving humanity. I was moved as a human man, a human being, and what we need is moving humanity in our time to overcome the problems to raise hope. The future (is) before you. The world and so are we (are) with you. God bless you."

Obama responded: "God bless you."

The senator noted that for most of the 60 years Israel has existed, "President Peres, you have been deeply involved in this miracle that has blossomed and we are extraordinarily grateful not just as Americans but as world citizens for your outstanding service to your country and the understanding and insight that you have shared with all of us."

The Democrat said he was in Israel "to reaffirm the special relationship between Israel and the United States, my abiding commitment to Israel's security and I hope I can serve as an effective partner whether as a United States senator or as a president, in bringing about a more lasting peace in the region."

The two entered Beit HaNasi where Peres started describing an important book he read that contrasted the merits of socialism versus capitalism, which he recommended to the young senator whose books Peres found to be full of a moving humanity.

-- jpt

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