U.S. President Donald Trump will visit Yad Vashem on Tuesday at 1:00 P.M on the second and final day of his Israel trip. The brief visit, expected to last 30 minutes, will not include a tour of the museum. The president will only attend a memorial ceremony that includes the laying of a wreath and the recitation of a prayer, after which he will make a short speech and sign the guestbook.
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Trump will be accompanied by his wife Melania, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara, Yad Vashem director Avner Shalev and Rabbi Israel Meir Lau, chairman of the Yad Vashem Council.
As is customary with visiting dignitaries, Trump will be given a memento of his visit to Yad Vashem. The item selected for him is an exact replica of the diary of a Jewish girl, Ester Goldstein, who was murdered in the Holocaust when she was 16. Esther’s sister, Holocaust survivor Margot Herschenbaum, will take part in the ceremony.
Ester was born in Berlin in 1926 to parents who had immigrated there from Poland. The entire immediate family, aside from Margot, were killed in the Holocaust. The book contains a dedication written to her by her classmates. One of them, Bella, who was killed in Auschwitz, wrote: “Love life and do not fear death, Believe in God and in a better future.”
Yad Vashem does not provide figures concerning the visits of heads of state on its website, but this is believed to be the shortest visit there ever by a leader of Trump’s standing. U.S. President Barack Obama's second visit to Yad Vashem in 2013 lasted an hour. U.S. President George W. Bush’s visit in 2008 also lasted longer and included a tour of the museum. Bush said at the time: “We should have bombed Auschwitz.”
Yad Vashem says that every official visit to the site is individually tailored for the allotted time and for the specific visitor. Thus, when German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier came to Yad Vashem earlier this month, the visit did not include a tour of the museum, since he had toured it before. Instead, he was given a tour of the art museum and archives.
According to Yad Vashem, the mere fact that Trump is visiting the site, despite the tight timetable of his brief trip to Israel, is a statement in itself, even though he will not be touring the museum.
Trump and his administration have been criticized for their treatment of the Holocaust. On International Holocaust Remembrance Day in January, the U.S. president did not mention the Jews who were murdered but only that “innocent people” were killed. And last month, his White House spokesman Sean Spicer got into trouble when he implied that Syrian President Bashar Assad is worse than Hitler and said that Hitler didn’t use chemical weapons. Spicer also referred to the concentration camps as “Holocaust centers.”
Trump, who has frequently been accused of not speaking out clearly enough against anti-Semitism, tried to correct that impression with his speech marking Holocaust Remembrance Day last month, when he said, “The Holocaust is the darkest chapter in human history,” mentioned the six million Jews who were murdered by the Nazis and even referred to “Yom Hashoah” in Hebrew.