Religions clash over Temple Mount / Noble Sanctuary

[ by Charles Cameron — not that that should be news.. also Egypt, Israel, Saudi ] . The bomber described in the upper panel, above, has a somewhat strained notion of revenge, it seems to me, though no doubt it makes sense to him. And you can tell that the button ad in the lower […] Read more »

Which ground is holy?

[ by Charles Cameron — a question of what makes “holy ground” holy? ] . ** Upper panel, Ramadan Confrontations Test Restraint on Jerusalem’s Holy Esplanade: For the first twenty days of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, an unusual calm prevailed on Jerusalem’s Holy Esplanade – known to Jews as the Temple Mount and […] Read more »

Behind the Lens: Photographing the President in 50 Countries

Today, President Obama visits Kenya — the 50th country he has visited during his Administration. It’s also my 50th country traveling with the President.

To mark the occasion, as I did when the President visited his 50th state, I chose one photograph from each country that we’ve visited.

Traveling abroad with the President is very different.

Often times, I am at the mercy of the host country for access. Some countries are more accommodating to me than others. I am lucky to have counterpart official photographers in many countries who are extremely helpful to me in this regard. I of course try to return the help to them when they visit the White House with their head of state.

We’re also rarely in any one country for more than a couple of days, which gives us only a partial glimpse of each place. And because of security, the sites we are able to visit are often limited too.

All that said, we’ve had the incredible opportunity to visit the Pyramids in Egypt, Stonehenge in the United Kingdom, the Great Wall in China, Petra in Jordan, and the Shwedagon Pagoda in Myanmar (Burma). (So I really shouldn’t complain too much.)

I hope you enjoy this gallery. And stay tuned — we’ll be adding a photograph from Kenya and additionally, Ethiopia, following his visit next week.

Afghanistan, 2012

Boarding Air Force One at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan, May 1, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama: “Happy Hanukkah, Everybody!”

We've koshered the kitchen and set up the menorah. And this afternoon, President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama welcomed hundreds of guests here at the White House for the second night of Hanukkah.

Watch on YouTube

Joined by the First Lady and Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson of the American Jewish University in Los Angeles, President Obama retold the story of Hanukkah, "a story that took place more than 2,000 years ago, when a small group of Maccabees rose up to defeat their far more powerful oppressors."

In the face of overwhelming odds, they reclaimed their city and the right to worship as they chose. And in their victory, they found there wasn’t enough oil to keep the flame in their temple alive. But they lit the oil they had and, miraculously, the flame that was supposed to burn for just one night burned for eight. The Hanukkah story teaches us that our light can shine brighter than we could ever imagine with faith, and it’s up to us to provide that first spark.

The President also took time to highlight a new Hanukkah story: The return of American aid worker Alan Gross from Cuba.

"After our many months of discussion with the Cuban government, Alan was finally released this morning on humanitarian grounds," the President said:

He’s going to be getting the medical attention that he needs. He’s back where he belongs -- in America, with his family, home for Hanukkah. And I can’t think of a better way to mark this holiday, with its message that freedom is possible, than with the historic changes that I announced today in our Cuba policy. These are changes that are rooted in America’s commitment to freedom and democracy for all the Cuban people, including its small but proud Jewish community.

Rabbi Shavit Artson led the blessings and lit the menorah -- one of four brought from Israel to the White House this year. The menorah came from bilingual Jerusalem school Hand in Hand, and was built by both Jewish and Muslim students following a devastating arson attack. As the President put it, "Each of its branches are dedicated to one of the values their school is founded on -- values like community and dignity and equality and peace."
 

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What We Are Reading…

International News Coverage Iran, Terrorism, Abkhazia,  Morocco,  Jerusalem,  South China Sea Iran Nuclear Talks Extended Seven Months after Failing to Meet Deadline Louis Charbonneau and Fredrik Dahl | Reuters Iran and six powers failed for a second time this year on Monday to resolve their 12-year dispute over Tehran’s nuclear ambitions and gave themselves seven more […]

The post What We Are Reading… appeared first on American Security Project.

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Weekly Wrap Up: “We Stand Together”

Watch the West Wing Week here. Middle East Trip: On Wednesday, President Obama embarked on a five day journey to Israel, the West Bank, and Jordan. The President began his visit with an arrival ceremony at the Ben Gurion airport followed by a visit to... Read more »

President Obama Tells Israeli People: The U.S Is Proud to Be “Your Strongest Ally and Your Greatest Friend”

President Obama and Israeli President Peres inspect an honor guard in Tel Aviv, Israel, March 20, 2013

President Barack Obama and Israeli President Shimon Peres inspect an honor guard during the official arrival ceremony at Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel, March 20, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

On the first day of his visit to the Middle East, the first foreign trip of his second term, President Obama was in Israel, where he met with President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The visit is historic, marking the first time the President has visited Israel since taking office, and comes as its citizens celebrate the 65th anniversary of a free and independent State of Israel.

President Obama's visit began with an arrival ceremony at the Ben Gurion airport, followed by an inspection of the Iron Dome Battery defense system in Tel Aviv. The Iron Dome is a short range rocket and mortar defense system, which was developed by Israel and produced with U.S. assistance and is part of a multi-tier missile defense developed to counter the rocket threat against Israel’s civilian population. From there, the President flew on to Jerusalem, where he met with Israeli leaders and attended a working dinner with Prime Minister Netanyahu.

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Hanukkah at the White House: A Menorah that Survived Sandy

President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and Rabbi Larry Bazer at the 2012 Hanukkah reception, Dec. 13, 2012

President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and Rabbi Larry Bazer participate in the Menorah lighting during the Hanukkah reception in the Grand Foyer of the White House, Dec. 13, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama on Thursday welcomed friends and leaders from the Jewish community to celebrate the sixth night of Hanukkah. In his remarks, the President remembered the enduring story of resilience and optimism that is the essence of this holiday:

Over 2,000 years ago, a tyrant forbade the Israelites from practicing their religion and his forces desecrated the Holy Temple.  So Judah Maccabee gathered a small band of believers to fight this oppression, and against all odds, they prevailed.  And the Maccabees liberated Jerusalem and restored the faith of its people.  And when they went to reclaim the Temple, the people of Jerusalem received another gift from God -- the oil that should have lasted only one night burned for eight.  That miraculous flame brought hope and it sustained the faithful.

To this day, Jews around the world honor the Maccabees' everlasting hope that light will overcome the darkness, that goodness will overcome evil, and that faith can accomplish miracles.The celebration this year was a tribute to more recent examples of resilience and optimism as well. The 90-year-old menorah used in the ceremony came from the Temple Israel synagogue in Long Beach, New York, which was badly damaged by Hurricane Sandy. It served as a symbol of perseverance, and as a reminder of those who are still recovering from Sandy’s destruction. 

This was not the first year that Rabbi Larry Bazer, the Joint Forces Chaplain for the Massachusetts National Guard, was asked to light the candles at the White House Hanukkah celebration. Last year, Rabbi Bazer was unable to attend because he was four months into his deployment in Afghanistan, and he spent every night of Hanukkah with a different group of soldiers. As President Obama noted, "he had a pretty good excuse" for turning down that invitation.

Update: Learn more about the 2012 White House Menorah in this video:  

 

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Barriers and Bridges: Visiting the West Bank

Some days it feels like I have the best job in the world. This week I had one of those days. For the past several days I’ve been working with our Embassy in Tel Aviv and Consulate General in Jerusalem on their public diplomacy social media programs. This focuses mostly on sharing best practices from […] Read more »