Obama visits Bethlehem's Nativity Church
Published Friday 22/03/2013 (updated) 24/03/2013 10:19
Policemen patrol ahead of US President Barack Obama's arrival at
the Church of the Nativity, revered as the site of Jesus' birth, in the
West Bank town of Bethlehem March 22. (Reuters/Ammar Awad)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- US President Barack Obama visited Bethlehem's Nativity Church on Friday later than scheduled due to bad weather and an extended meeting with Israel's prime minister.
Obama's meeting with Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem overran by an hour, Israeli media reported.
Meanwhile, strong winds blowing clouds of dust grounded Obama's helicopter, forcing the US leader to make the short journey from Jerusalem to Bethlehem by motorcade.
The route took Obama through a checkpoint in Israel's wall in the occupied West Bank.
In Bethlehem, Obama was greeted by President Mahmoud Abbas, mayor Vera Baboun and clergy at the Nativity Church, the traditional site of Jesus's birth.
The US president was accompanied by Secretary of State John Kerry.
Sparse crowds of onlookers were on the streets of the wind-swept Biblical city, where Obama spent only 35 minutes, the final stage of his three-day visit to Israel and the Palestinian Territories.
At the Nativity Church, Obama ducked to enter through its small Door of Humility. Manger Square, the plaza in front of the church, was almost deserted except for security personnel.
A few waiters watched from a nearby restaurant and souvenir shops were almost empty or shuttered.
It was Obama's second visit as president to the occupied West Bank, capping a 48-hour tour that has mostly emphasized Israeli concerns.
Ahead of the brief visit, the mayor of Bethlehem said she hoped Obama would think hard about what he sees.
Baboun described Obama's trip as a welcome gesture to learn of the obstacles facing her city.
"It's important that President Obama comes and sees, as a president, and listens because we need acts," Baboun said. "Enough is enough, I think. We waited a long time."
Reuters contributed to this report