President Obama's trip to Israel took a solemn turn on Friday morning as he visited the gravesites of Yitzhak Rabin and Theodor Herzl, pausing to honor the memory of two men revered by Jews in Israel. Afterward, Mr. Obama visited Yad Vashem, Israel's official memorial to the Jews killed in the Holocaust, remembering the tragedy that claimed millions of lives and vowing, "Never again."
Some highlights of the president's morning:
Theodor Herzl's gravesite
Mr. Obama's morning began with a visit to the gravesite of Theodor Herzl, an Austrian Jew born in the mid-19th century who is considered the father of modern political Zionism. Herzl's book, "Der Judenstaat" ("The Jewish State"), is credited with popularizing and spearheading the movement among European Jews to find and claim a territory of their own, a movement that eventually culminated in the 1948 formation of the state of Israel.
The president paid his respects to Herzl's memory, approaching his tomb with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli President Shimon Peres and breaking away from the two Israeli leaders to personally lay a wreath on Herzl's tomb. He laid a stone on the tomb as well and paused for a moment of reflection before turning back to his hosts.
Yitzhak Rabin's family and tomb
After leaving Herzl's gravesite, Mr. Obama's next stop was the tomb of Yitzhak Rabin, the prime minister of Israel who signed the Oslo Accords with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in 1993 and was assassinated by a Jewish fundamentalist in 1995. Rabin's assassination set off a chain of political dominoes that reverberates to this day: the current Israeli president, Shimon Peres, became Prime Minister in the wake of Rabin's assassination, and Peres was succeeded in that office by Benjamin Netanyahu, who today is once again Israel's prime minister.
Before paying his respects to the slain prime minister, Mr. Obama met Rabin's family, whom he greeted warmly and told it was a "great honor to share this beautiful day here with a remarkable man." The president joked that his hosts have done everything possible to make his trip comfortable. "Bibi has arranged for perfect weather," he said, and "Shimon has...plied me with wine."
After greeting the family, Mr. Obama approached Rabin's grave to honor the Israeli leader's memory. He placed a stone on Rabin's tomb and the tomb of his wife, Leah, who died in 2000 and was buried alongside him.