LIVE BLOG: Obama Visits Israel, Day Three

Judy Maltz
Anshel Pfeffer
Barak Ravid
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Judy Maltz
Anshel Pfeffer
Barak Ravid

On his third and final day in Israel, U.S. President Barack Obama visited Jerusalem's Mount Herzl and the tombs of slain Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin as well as that of the visionary of the Jewish state and the founder of Zionism, Theodor Herzl. Obama  also visited the Holocaust memorial and museum at Yad Vashem.

On Friday, Obama also met one last time with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, briefing him on his talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday in Ramallah.

Before continuing his tour in the Middle East, Obama arrived in Bethlehem and visited the Church of the Nativity, the Biblical birthplace of Jesus Christ.

The U.S. President was scheduled to take off from Israel to Jordan at 3:30 P.M. after a short farewell ceremony at Israel's Ben Gurion International Airport. However, due to a sandstorm, which resulted in the president being driven and not flown to Bethlehem and then the airport, there were delays in his schedule. The sandstorm also resulted in the cancelation of Obama's farewell ceremony.

On Thursday, Obama visited the Israel Museum, met with Abbas in Ramallah, addressed Israeli students in Jerusalem and attended a formal dinner at the President's Residence in Jerusalem.

4:54 P.M. Obama arrives in Jordan for the final stop on his four-day visit to the Middle East. (AP)

4:18 P.M. Air Force One takes off from Ben Gurion airport; heads to Jordan.

4:07 P.M. Door of Air Force One closes behind Obam.

4:04 P.M.  Obama, standing in entrance to Air Force One, waves goodbye to Israel.

4:03 P.M. Obama poses for a photo with Israeli and U.S. officials on the tarmac, before boarding Air Force One.

4:00 P.M. Obama lifts up and hugs the daughters of Dan Shapiro as he departs from officials at the airport.

3:57 P.M. On tarmac at Ben Gurion airport, Obama departs with Israeli officials; thanks them for their 'hard work'.

3:38 P.M. Channel 2 reports that, due to delays in Obama's schedule, the president is currently eating lunch in a VIP room at Ben Gurion International Airport.

3:23 P.M. A political insider in Jerusalem says that during Netanyahu's meeting with Obama this afternoon at the King David hotel in Jerusalem, the prime minister emphasized that involvement in Israel's security arrangements should be deepened during any future negotiations with the Palestinians.

The source adds that the meeting between Netanyahu and Obama was extended and was around two hours long.

Other Israeli attendees included National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror and special envoy Yitzhak Molcho. On the American side the attendees were Secretary of State John Kerry and National Security Advisor Tom Donilon.

The political insider says that the meeting was comprehensive and that the issue of the Palestinians was discussed, as were other regional issues.

3:13 P.M. All roads to Jerusalem that were closed have reopened.

3:05 P.M. Air Force One awaiting Obama's arrival at Ben Gurion Airport to take off to Jordan.

2:50 P.M. Israeli official: Netanyahu and Obama met for 2 hours. Netanyahu spoke of the need to put more emphasis on security issues in future peace talks. (Barak Ravid)

2:27 P.M. Back on schedule, Obama motorcade leaves Bethlehem church heading to Ben Gurion International Airport. (Haaretz)

2:05 P.M. Israel Police close Highway 1 in both directions at 2:10 P.M. for one hour. (Haaretz)

2:00 P.M. Obama arrives at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, 53 minutes behind schedule. (Anshel Pfeffer)

1:55 P.M. Lebanon's Hezbollah condemns Obama for labeling the militant Shi'ite group a terrorist organization in Thursday's Jerusalem speech. (Reuters)

1:50 P.M. Rumers in Bethlehem that Obama's planned 26-minute visit in the church has been sliced to only 14 minutes. The priests are getting ready to greet the U.S. President at the church's door. (Anshel Pfeffer)

1:45 P.M. Prime Minister's Office: Due to bad weather conditions, the formal farewell ceremony for U.S. President Obama in Ben-Gurion airport is canceled. (Barak Ravid)

1:39 P.M. Obama's meeting with Netanyahu runs about one hour overtime.

1:08 P.M. Crowd control in Bethlehem is getting really ugly, outside the Curch of the Nativity, as Palestinian security is trying to deprive people of any sight of Obama. (Anshel Pfeffer)

12:55 P.M. Palestinian security forces are clearing Manger Square ahead of Obama's arrival. (Anshel Pfeffer)

12:52 P.M. Imam of mosque located opposite to the Church of the Nativity says in Friday sermon, ahead of Obama's visit, that "America is source of all evil in world.  We will not give up one bit of our land." (Anshel Pfeffer)

12:42 P.M. The Prime Minister's Office is considering canceling Obama's farewell ceremony at Ben Gurion International Airport due to heavy sandstorm. Defense Ministry personal begin taking down the set due to heavy wind (Jonathan Lis)

12:36 P.M. As Israelis prepare for Shabbat and Passover, Channel 2 reports heavy traffic in Jerusalem due to Obama's visit. (Haaretz)

12:35 P.M. Sandstorm descends on Bethlehem, forcing Obama to drive to the Church of the Nativity instead of flying in Marine Corps One. (Anshel Pfeffer)

12:28 P.M. Due to heavy sandstorms, Channel 2 reports that Obama is set to drive, and not fly, to Israel's Ben Gurion International Airport on his way to Jordan. Police to close Highway 1 between 1:30 P.M. and 4:00 P.M.

12:08 P.M. Inside the Church of the Nativity, a trickle of pilgrims are still entering and praying. A young priest, Father Atwan, says he wasn't aware of a reception prepared for the American president.

In Manger Square, Fathia Ajaj holds a Palestinian flag and a picture of her brother, Ahmed, who is serving a 115-year sentence for his part in the 1993 bomb attack at the World Trade Center. She was there to ask Obama to release her brother, who is suffering from cancer.

In the square and the surrounding streets there are mixed feelings regarding Obama's visit. (Anshel Pfeffer)

11:55 A.M. Obama is scheduled to visit Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity at 12:30 P.M. (Haaretz)

10:55 A.M. Obama is meeting with Netanyahu at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. (Haaretz)

10:48 A.M. Obama is on his way to meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (Haaretz)

10:45 A.M. After the ceremony at Yad Vashem was concluded, former chief rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau told Obama on the time he was released from the Buchenwald concentration camp. Lau told Obama that years later he met one of the soldiers who freed the camp. The veteran, who only later was learned on the horrors of the Holocaust, Lau said, apologized that military forces did not arrive earlier. "Yesterday you promised that we are not alone," Lau told Obama, and asked him: "don't be late, Mr. President." (Haaretz)

10:40 A.M. Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev presents Obama a music sheet to an original melody of the Passover song “Had Gadya," written by the chief cantor of Amsterdam who was murdered in the Sobibor death camp. “A wonderful gift,” says Obama, “I’ll cherish this always.” (Judy Maltz)

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Strong wind at Ben Gurion International Airport.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
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Obama, Peres and Netanyahu on Mount Herzl.Credit: AP
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Mount Herzl guestbook signed by Obama.Credit: GPO

For Judy Maltz's full coverage of Obama's visit to Yad Vashem, click here.

10:26 A.M. Obama: "The state of Israel does not exist because of the Holocaust, but with the survival of the state of Israel, there will never be a Holocaust again." (Judy Maltz)

10:21 A.M. Obama speaks at Yad Vashem: "Here we see how evil can, for a moment in time, triumph ... Here we learn that we are never powerless." (Haaretz)

10:20 A.M. Obama is writing in the Yad Vashem visitor book. (Haaretz)

10:12 A.M. Obama visits "Yad Layeled" children memorial at Yad Vashem, listening to the names of the children murdered in the Holocaust. (Haaretz)

10:11 A.M. Ceremony at Yad Vashem is concluded. (Haaretz)

10:08 A.M. Cantor Asher Hainowitz  recites "El Maleh Rachamim," a prayer for the dead. (Haaretz)

10:05 A.M. The Ankor Children's Choir sings as ceremony begins in Yad Vashem. Obama lights the Eternal Flame at Yad Vashem. (Haaretz)

10:00 A.M. Palestinian police, equipped with shiny new riot gear, are sealing off Bethlehem streets leading to Manger Square. Expecting trouble? (Anshel Pfeffer)

9:50 A.M. Obama is being shown "The Portrait and the Maiden" by Charlotte Salomon in Yad Vashem. (Haaretz)

9:46 A.M. Ambassador Michael Oren tells Haaretz outside Yad Vashem: "Everything in this trip is rife with significance and symbolism not necessarily understandable to people around the world but poignantly meaningful to people in the Middle East. By laying a wreath at Herzl's grave just now - an act that other foreign leaders have refused to do - President Obama was reaffirming Zionism and the idea of a Jewish state." (Judy Maltz)

9:40 A.M.  Palestinian security (with new U.S.-issued helmets) closing off the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. Locals are complaining of being kicked out of Manger Square. (Anshel Pfeffer)

9:35 A.M. Obama arrives at Yad Vashem's Hall of Remembrance. Obama also visited the museum in 2008 as a U.S. senator. (Haaretz)

9:30 A.M. Rabin's granddaughter Noa Rothman tells Israel's Channel 10 that Obama told the Rabin family that he is committed to the peace process; says Peres told Obama that Rabin felt excited on the day he was murdered, following the peace rally in Tel Aviv. (Haaretz)

9:20 A.M. Palestinian Authority suits arrive to Bethlehem's central Manger Square and order the place be cleaned ahead of Obama's visit later today. Atmosphere in Bethlehem very muted. (Anshel Pfeffer)

9:11 A.M. Obama, accompanied by Marine soldiers, lays wreath at the graves of former PM Rabin and his wife Lea at Mount Herzl, speaks with Rabin family members, daughter Dalia Rabin-Pelossof, granddaughter Noa Rothman. (Haaretz)

9:10 A.M. Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev and former chief rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau have just arrived at Hall of Remembrance. (Judy Maltz)

9:02 A.M. Obama lays wreath at Herzl's grave, signs Mount Herzl's visitor book. (Haaretz)

8:59 A.M. Obama arrives at Mount Herzl, accompanied by President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (Haaretz)

8:55 A.M. Master of ceremonies sitting next to me in Yad Vashem, lipreading his prepared greeting to U.S. President Obama. Choir has just completed practicing their song. Yad Vashem is swarming with American and Israeli security. Only a few representatives of press here though, because of pool restrictions. U.S. Embassy official says Obama may be arriving earlier than scheduled. (Judy Maltz)

8:50 A.M. Bethlehem is a town underwhelmed by Obama's visit. A few small U.S. flags are seen, no welcoming banners. They didn't even sweep the central Manger Square. (Anshel Pfeffer)

8:45 A.M. Obama's motorcade en route to Mount Herzl. (Haaretz)

8:30 A.M. Netanyahu arrives to Mount Herzl ahead of Obama visit. (Haaretz)

8:00 A.M. Press is setting up in Yad Vashem's Hall of Remembrance ahead of Obama visit, where he will attend a memorial ceremony. The Ankor Children's Choir, under the direction of Dafna Ben Yohanan, currently practicing, will open with the song "Walk to Caesarea," written by the young poet and parachutist Hannah Szenes who was killed behind enemy lines in Hungary in 1944.

Obama will then be asked to rekindle the eternal flame in the hall. Before it stands a stone crypt containing ashes of Holocaust victims upon which he will lay a wreath. cantor Asher Hainowitz will conclude ceremony with "El Maleh Rachamim," a prayer for the dead. (Judy Maltz)

U.S. President Barack Obama waves before boarding Air Force One prior to his departure from Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel, March 22, 2013.Credit: AP

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