Jerusalem, March 22 (IANS) US President Barack Obama Friday made a historic visit to Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem which marks the birthplace of Jesus, and also paid tributes at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas accompanied Obama in his visit to the church, Xinhua reported.
Obama toured the church and listened to a brief of its history before praying there.
Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos III welcomed Obama in the church and presented him souvenirs.
A group of Palestinian children also welcomed Obama with Palestinian and US flags.
In the morning, Obama visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem.
Wearing a white skullcap, Obama toured the Hall of Names, a memorial to six million Jews murdered in Nazi extermination camps during World War II.
“The state of Israel does not exist because of the Holocaust, but with the survival of a strong Jewish state of Israel, such a holocaust will never happen again,” Obama said.
“We learn here that people have a choice to succumb to evil or to act against it,” the US president said.
Obama also visited Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl cemetery, where he laid wreaths at the graves of Theodor Herzl, the visionary of the Jewish state, and Yitzhak Rabin, the prime minister who was assassinated in 1995 at the height of a peace process with the Palestinians.
“Sometimes it is harder to embark on peace than to embark on war,” Rabin’s daughter Dalia quoted Obama as saying at her father’s grave.
Israeli government officials said that due to a severe sandstorm, Obama had to go to Bethlehem by his presidential limousine instead of by a US Marines helicopter.