Biden to ping Israel’s famous spots on the Middle East tour

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JERUSALEM — President Joe Biden’s push through Israel and the occupied West Bank this week is expected to traverse some of the region’s most iconic sites.

Both luxurious and grueling, Biden’s visit begins with a VIP arrival at Israel’s main commercial airport — a nightmare for regular travelers this summer due to long queues and delays — and travels through Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Most of his travels are business focused. Upon arrival, he will see Israel’s advanced anti-missile defense technology up close. The threat of Iran’s nuclear capabilities and the US midterm elections in 2022 overshadow the entire exercise as Biden steps down onto the world stage as president on his first visit to the region.

But between meetings with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, he will visit a number of well-known attractions while staying at a historic Jerusalem hotel. Here’s a look at some of the expected highlights from Biden’s tour before he flies to Saudi Arabia on Friday.

The King David Hotel is fully booked this week for Biden and his entourage of hundreds of staff, security guards and journalists.

It is the first time Biden has slept as president behind the building’s iconic pink limestone facade, which overlooks the domes and minarets of Jerusalem’s Old City.

King David was a witness to—and sometimes a participant in—the history of Israel.

It opened in 1931 when the area was still governed by British Mandate authorities. A bombing by a Zionist militant group in 1946 hit the southwest facade, killing 91 people. After Israeli independence in 1948, it overlooked a valley in no man’s land.

Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin were photographed having a tense dinner before the Camp David Peace Accords in 1977.

Hollywood was here too. Movie stars Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton reportedly fell out during their public stint. Scenes from the 1960 film Exodus were filmed in the hotel’s gilded lobby and chic terrace.

Presidents dating back to Richard Nixon have stayed at the King David. Dozens of kings and prime ministers are also on the hotel’s client list.

Tiles spanning the building’s first floor bear images of the signatures of luminaries from Madonna to former President Donald Trump, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. A stairwell past reception doubles as a gallery of the house’s famous faces, including a priceless picture of then-US President Jimmy Carter in shorts, returning from a morning jog.

All that history and far-reaching prospects don’t come cheap. The 153-square-foot presidential suite costs more than $3,800 a night in the week after Biden’s departure, according to the hotel’s website.

Biden will stop at Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum on Wednesday, which commemorates the 6 million Jews killed by the Nazis and their allies during World War II.

The spire-shaped building in Jerusalem tells the story of the Holocaust and emphasizes the experiences of each victim. It is about 180 meters long and cuts through a mountain, with its top edge protruding through the ridge.

Biden will reignite the Eternal Flame and lay a wreath on a slab over a spot where ashes from the death camps are buried, the museum said.

He will also meet with two survivors, Rena Quint from former Czechoslovakia and Giselle Cycowicz from Poland, at the Museum of Holocaust Art.

FROM THE WHITE HOUSE TO THE PRESIDENT’S RESIDENCE

US and Israeli flags were ironed and displayed. A long red carpet has been rolled out. A stage is set up.

Such are the preparations at the President’s residence in Jerusalem, where Israel’s Isaac will present Duke Biden with the country’s highest civilian decoration. Since 2012, the Presidential Medal of Honor has been awarded to 26 individuals who “through their talents, service, or otherwise, have made outstanding contributions to the State of Israel or mankind,” according to the government.

Herzog’s office said Biden had proven himself a “true friend of the entire Jewish people” for more than half a century in American public service. Other recipients include former President Barack Obama. Biden served as his vice president.

The residence has been the home of the Israeli President since 1971 and is located in an upscale neighborhood of Jerusalem on approximately 1 hectare. Israel’s third president, Zalman Shazar, asked that it be erected in accordance with the biblical verse, “Dwell among my own people.”

AUGUSTA VICTORIA HOSPITAL

Biden is expected to ferry to east Jerusalem to visit Augusta Victoria Hospital for a meeting with heads of six hospitals serving Palestinians in the region.

Two Palestinian officials said Biden is expected to refund the $25 million Trump cut in 2018 after recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. They spoke on condition of anonymity pending formal announcement.

The Palestinians claim East Jerusalem, conquered by Israel in 1967, as the capital of a future state, and Biden’s visit to a Palestinian hospital in the area carries deep symbolism. Israel annexed East Jerusalem in an internationally unrecognized move.

Augusta Victoria Hospital opened in 1910 and is part of a network of six hospitals providing specialized cancer and dialysis care in East Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank.

Biden is trying to strengthen ties with the Palestinians after seeking to unravel some of Trump’s foreign policy in the Middle East.

He ends his visit with a meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank city of Bethlehem. He also plans a stop at the Church of the Nativity – built on the spot where Christians believe Jesus was born.

Biden is expected to visit athletes participating in the Maccabiah Games at Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem on Thursday.

Also known as the “Jewish Olympiad,” the games are the country’s largest sporting event. Olympic champion Mark Spitz is the Games’ best-known claim to world fame. He swam his first international competition at the 1965 Maccabiah Games and returned four years later to prepare for his outstanding performance at the 1972 Olympics.

Every four years, Israeli and Jewish athletes from all over the world compete at their events. This year’s games, set to take place over a two-week period, are expected to attract around 10,000 athletes from 60 countries, competing in dozens of sports.

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Dustin Huang

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