When Trump Visits Yad Vashem, All Eyes Will Be on Him

Visit to the Holocaust memorial follows missteps in the president’s relationship with the Jewish world

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U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a joint press conference with Mahmoud Abbas in the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., May 3, 2017.
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a joint press conference with Mahmoud Abbas in the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., May 3, 2017.Credit: Olivier Douliery/Bloomberg
Judy Maltz
Judy Maltz

A trip to Yad Vashem, Israel’s national Holocaust museum and memorial, is de rigueur for any visiting foreign dignitary. But given U.S. President Donald Trump’s rather fraught relationship with the subject, his visit is bound to draw closer scrutiny than usual.

Sources familiar with Trump’s itinerary confirmed on Monday that the president’s one-day stop in Israel on May 22 will include Yad Vashem, though the details have yet to be finalized. Responding to a request for comment from Haaretz, a museum spokesman said: “As far as Yad Vashem knows, the American president will visit here during his trip to Israel.”

Barely a week after he was sworn in as president in January, Trump drew fire when a statement issued by his office for International Holocaust Remembrance Day contained no mention of Jews. In April, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer sparked an uproar when he said that Adolf Hitler, unlike Syrian President Bashar Assad, “didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons,” ignoring that fact that millions of Jews were gassed to death by the Nazis. A day later, Yad Vashem responded by inviting Spicer to visit its website.

When Trump arrives for his tour of Yad Vashem, he may notice some familiar names on the wall: The parents of his son-in-law Jared Kushner are major donors to the institution and there is a plaque honoring them. Seryl and Charles Kushner are “benefactors” of the institution, meaning they have given Yad Vashem at least $1 million. Charles’ parents were Holocaust survivors.

In March 2010, around five months after their wedding, Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump were given a special tour of Yad Vashem, whose quarterly magazine from July of that year included a photograph of the couple outside the museum.

This will be Trump’s first presidential visit to Israel but his second trip to the country. Back in 1989, when he was a relatively young real estate mogul, he made a two-day trip to Israel. His itinerary, included in a file recently released by the Israel State Archives, does not specify whether he visited Yad Vashem then. It indicates that on the first morning after his arrival, he visited the Old City of Jerusalem, Bethlehem and “museums.”

Trump’s May 22 visit is expected to include Jerusalem’s Western Wall, one of Judaism’s holiest sites, and Masada, Israel’s most famous archeological site, where he may deliver a speech. Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner and the first lady, Melania Trump, are expected to accompany him.

Trump will stop in Saudi Arabia before arriving in Israel, and is scheduled to visit the Palestinian Authority on May 23.

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