(Banner image: Posters advertising an exhibit at Friends of the Zion Museum can be seen around Jerusalem ahead of the president’s visit. Photo by Anna Scott)
Trump will arrive in Israel on Monday, after visiting Saudi Arabia (where he’ll deliver a speech about Islam written by travel ban architect Stephen Miller).
Traditionally, Israel welcomes visiting US presidents at the airport with a big and well-covered ceremony, but Trump’s team refused to do that. He’ll only be met by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Reuven Rivlin and their wives.
Here’s what you need to know about where he’s going:
This is Israel’s official memorial to the victims of the Holocaust. Trump has 15 minutes on his schedule to spend there. This gives him just enough time to deliver a short statement and sign the guest book, but probably not much more than that. The Israelis tried to negotiate, saying that he needs at least an hour and half to cover the larger museum, but team Trump insisted that’s all the time he has.
Trump will deliver his main speech here at Israel’s national museum. Originally, he was planning on speaking at the Masada fortress, a choice that raised eyebrows in both Israel and the US. Masada is controversial. It’s symbolic for the mass suicide of 960 Jewish Zealots who chose to die rather than succumb to the Roman army in the first century. ( S ix years ago Trump reportedly asked if he could hold the Miss Universe pageant at Masada.)
After being told he wouldn’t be able to land a helicopter on top of the fortress, Trump made the change.
The touristy city in the West Bank is known to be Jesus’ birthplace by the new testament and is much more familiar to Americans than other parts of the West Bank. This is where Trump will meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. It’s more neutral setting than, say, the Palestinian capital and residence of the Palestinian authority – Ramallah.
Church of the Holy Sepulchre
This is in Jerusalem and, according to Christian tradition, is where Jesus was crucified and buried. This visit corresponds with President’s Trump overall religious pilgrimage theme, in which he visits the holiest sites to the three Abrahamic religions (though he can’t go the Mecca since non-Muslims are not allowed).
The Western Wall
The wall, located in Jerusalem’s Old City, is part of the territory Israel captured in the 1967 Six-Day War and has been under Israeli control ever since. Trump will be the first sitting US president to visit this holy place. At first, Israelis saw this as a sign that the US acknowledges Israel’s right over the territory, but that wasn’t the case.
When Trump’s preparatory delegation toured at the holy site, they turned to the Israeli team and asked to be left alone, saying it was a private visit since it’s in the West Bank and not part of Israel’s jurisdiction.
This caused some controversy, but Trump’s visit to both the Western Wall and the The Church of the Holy Sepulchre will be conducted without any Israeli involvement and without Israeli media coverage.
On Tuesday evening, he’ll fly from Tel Aviv to Rome.