Jerusalem – Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama toured Israel’s Holocaust memorial Wednesday, laying a wreath in memory of the 6 million Jews who died and saying, “Ultimately, this is a place of hope.”
Obama toured the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial on a Jerusalem hillside as he moved through a busy day of meetings with Israeli and Palestinian officials, including Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
The Democratic nominee-in-waiting is on a tour of the Mideast and Europe, a journey financed by his campaign and designed to reassure skeptical voters back home of his ability to serve as commander in chief and guide diplomacy after eight years of the Bush administration.
Obama drew an unusually warm welcome from Israeli President Shimon Peres, who said his greatest wish is for a “great president of the United States. That is the greatest promise for us and the rest of the world.”
“God bless you,” said the 85-year-old fixture of Israeli politics, who joked that he was speaking as one young man to another. Obama is 46.
At the Holocaust memorial, Obama wore a white skullcap as he laid a wreath in memory of the victims of the Nazis.
Later, he said: “I am always taken back to sort of the core question of humanity that the Holocaust raises. That is, on the one hand, man’s great capacity for evil, and on the other hand, our ability to come together to stop evil.”
He added, “So despite this record of monumental tragedy this ultimately is a place of hope because it reminds us of our obligations and responsibilities hopefully to raise a better future for our children and our grandchildren.” He said he hoped he could bring his two young daughters with him on his next trip.
In signing the guestbook, he wrote, “May we remember those who perished, not only as victims but also as individuals who hoped and loved and dreamed like us, and who have become symbols of the human spirit.”
Aides said that while at the Holocaust Memorial, Obama met briefly with Aml Ganim, the Israeli border police officer who shot and killed the Palestinian man who used a bulldozer Tuesday to try and overturn cars outside the King David Hotel.