BETHLEHEM, West Bank (AP) — It's been a day of visits to symbolic sites for President Barack Obama, as he wrapped up his trip to Israel before leaving for Jordan.
After meeting for two hours over lunch with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Obama took his motorcade to Bethlehem in the West Bank to visit the Church of the Nativity. He'd been scheduled to take a helicopter there, but had to change plans because of high winds.
Amid heavy security, he toured the church with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. They stopped at the Grotto of the Nativity, which is said to stand where Jesus was born.
About 300 Palestinians and international pilgrims were gathered near the church, awaiting Obama's arrival. But a group of protesters along the route held signs saying that the U.S. supports "Israeli injustice." And at a nearby mosque, a Muslim religious official in Bethlehem made a speech to worshippers in which he asked, "America, where are your values?"
Obama and Netanyahu met again at the airport in Tel Aviv before Obama left for Jordan.
He had earlier laid wreaths at the graves of former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who was assassinated in 1995, and Theodor Herzl, the founder of modern Zionism.
And Obama toured the Yad Vashem (yad va-SHEM') Holocaust memorial, saying it's a reminder of "the righteous among the nations who refused to be bystanders."
123-a-07-(President Barack Obama, in comments, at Hall of Remembrance)-"vow never again"-President Barack Obama says the Hall of Remembrance and its Children's Memorial are powerful reminders. (22 Mar 2013)
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134-c-21-(Mark Smith, AP White House correspondent)-"homes in Israel"-AP White House Correspondent Mark Smith reports President Obama has had a mixed reception on a visit to Bethlehem. (22 Mar 2013)
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124-a-13-(President Barack Obama, in comments, at Hall of Remembrance)-"than the last"-President Barack Obama says sorrow and hope continue all these decades after the Holocaust. (22 Mar 2013)
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GRAPHICSBANK: US President Barack Obama (l) wears the Israeli Medal of Distinction as he shakes hands with Israel President Shimon Peres, Jerusalem, Israel, on texture with ISRAEL TRIP, finished graphic (21 Mar 2013)
APPHOTO ISRM118: U.S. President Barack Obama walks out of the Hall of Remembrance at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem, Israel, Friday, March 22, 2013. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais) (22 Mar 2013)
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APPHOTO SEB101: U.S. President Barack Obama's convoy drives in Jerusalem, Friday, March 22, 2013. When Obama decided to visit the Mideast, he knew he would be coming to a political maelstrom, but probably didn't expect to be swept up in a dust storm. Fierce winds began howling Friday afternoon, dirtying the air with a layer of smelly, beige dust. According to one weather report, winds gusted at about 27 miles an hour — an extreme and unusual weather pattern even for the region's arid climate. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner) (22 Mar 2013)
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