On a visit Friday to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial located in Jerusalem, President Barack Obama emphasized the “choice” people face when confronted with evil.
“We have a choice to acquiesce to evil or make real our solemn vow — never again,” Obama said, according to a White House pool report. “We have the choice to ignore what happens to others or to act on behalf of others.”
Obama also stressed the importance of instilling compassion in younger generations.
“Out sons and daughters are not born to hate,” he said. “They are taught to hate. Let us fill their young hearts with the same understanding and compassion that we hope others have for us.”
JERUSALEM — Wrapping up a three day visit to Israel, President Barack Obama paid respects to its heroes and to victims of the Holocaust, solemnly reaffirming the Jewish state’s right to exist.
Accompanied by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres, Obama laid wreaths at the graves of Theodor Herzl, the founder of modern Zionism who died in 1904 before realizing his dream of a Jewish homeland, and former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who was assassinated in 1995.
He also toured the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, declaring after that the memorial illustrates the depravity to which man can sink but also serves as a reminder of the “righteous among nations who refused to be bystanders.”
Today’s stop at Herzl’s grave, together with Thursday’s visit to see the Dead Sea Scrolls, the ancient Hebrew texts, were symbolic stops for Obama that acknowledged that the rationale for Israel’s existence rests with its historical ties to the region and with a vision that predated the Holocaust. Obama was criticized in Israel for his 2009 Cairo speech in which he gave only the example of the Holocaust as reason for justifying Israel’s existence.
“Here on your ancient land, let it be said for all the world to hear,” Obama said at Yad Vashem Friday, in a clear response to that criticism. “The state of Israel does not exist because of the Holocaust, but with the survival of a strong Jewish state of Israel, such a holocaust will never happen again.”