JERUSALEM--Wearing a white yarmulke, presumptive Democratic Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) paid his respects when he laid a wreath over the ashes of Holocaust victims at Yad Vashem on Wednesday morning.
He was introduced by Dana Porath, who is the content manager for YadVashem.org--and a former resident of West Rogers Park in Chicago. She said the senator's tribute linked him "with the six million of our people who were martyred at the hands of the German Nazis."
Obama toured the museum, dedicated to preserving Holocaust history, once before--in 2006--with no fanfare. On Wednesday there were four photo opportunities within the hour or less he spent at the museum, not counting the usual arrival and departure pictures.
Walking into the Hall of Remembrance wearing the skull cap, Obama rekindled a memorial flame and laid a wreath, standing silently for about a half minute.
At some point during his tour, Obama met with Aml Ganim, according to Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs. Ganim is 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. Gibbs didn't say what message Obama passed on to Ganim.
Obama, on Yad Vashem's Janusz Korczak Plaza, signed the guest book.
Obama accepted from Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev a book on Yad Vashem, which he called an "extraordinary gift."
Obama then told a small gathering of U.S. and Israeli journalists that in visiting Yad Vashem: "I'm always taken back to the core qualities of humanity that the holocaust raises." He said it showed "man's great capacity for evil...and capacity to stop it. This is a place of hope."
A stop at Yad Vashem is obligatory for visiting dignitaries: on Sunday, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown was there and last month French President Nicolas Sarkozy visited. Obama will see both European leaders later this week as part of his nine-day, seven country tour. On Thursday, Obama delivers the major public speech of his tour, on an outdoor park in Berlin.
Wednesday's visit came on a whirlwind day that will take Obama to meetings here and in Ramallah on the West Bank with a variety of Israeli and Palestinian Authority political leaders.
``I could fall asleep standing up,'' Obama told former Israeli Prime Miniser and Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu when they met in the morning at the King David Hotel. He also met with Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who is also chairman of the Labor Party.
Near noon local time, Obama was enroute to Ramallah, on the West Bank in a convoy--the U.S. Secret Service is providing all his security here and the Obama vehicle is a bullet proof Volvo limosine--for the short ride from Jerusalem to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.
Also on the schedule is dinner at Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's residence here. In the afternoon of a very long day, Obama will helicopter to the town of Sderot, near Gaza, the target of frequent shellings from Hamas rockets. `Israel's Challenges'
Obama will ``experience personally Israel's challenges and its promise in its 60th year,'' Susan Rice, Obama's senior foreign policy adviser said during a briefing with Obama's travel press.
According to the pool report, Obama met with Israeli President Simon Peres at Beit Hanasi, his official residence. Obama was accompanied by two of his principal Middle East advisors, James Steinberg and Daniel Shapiro. Rice and campaign strategist David Axelrod were also part of the delegation.
Peres walked Obama into his residence and briefly stopped to brief the press. Peres described his "high regard" for Obama and his belief that "the future belongs to the young." The Israeli leader added that if Obama wins the presidential election that he must strive "to be a great president of the United States" as there are "burning issues worldwide."
Obama thanked Peres and remarked about the central role the Israeli leader has played in his nation's 60-year history. Obama said he'd come to Jerusalem "to reaffirm the special relationship between Israel and the U.S." The senator added that he sought "to serve as an effective partner" for Israel, whether he wins the election or continues serving in the Congress.
The two men then entered the Beit Hanasi residence for their formal discussion. Obama was accompanied by Steinberg and Shapiro. Peres began the conversation by describing an important book he read that contrasted the merits of socialism versus capacity. He advised Obama to read the work.