By GREER FAY CASHMAN, JPost—
At an unimaginable cost in time, effort and human resources, both the Americans and the Israelis are leaving no stone unturned for the visit on Monday of US President Donald Trump, who will be the first sitting President to visit the Western Wall in the old city of Jerusalem. Other US Presidents who visited the Wall did so before they were elected or after leaving office – or both.
On Thursday, an American advance team visited Hadassah Medical Center in Ein Karem in case of an emergency situation that would require medical treatment for the president. They inspected the helicopter landing pad, the CT scanning facilities, and the operating theaters.
On Sunday, a dress rehearsal for the visit will be held at Ben Gurion Airport with the participation of representatives of the Prime Minister’s Office, Foreign Ministry, Defense Ministry, IDF and the Airports Authority as well as the police.
Last week, members of the US Military Mess who will serve as Trump’s personal chefs and valets arrived at the King David hotel to familiarize themselves with the kitchen and with the requirements of kashrut. There have been many changes at the hotel in order to accommodate the Americans – something that Sheldon Ritz, director of operations at the hotel, termed “controlled chaos.”
After long days with the detail-conscious American advance team, it transpired in the final analysis that President Trump has no special demands. Any food that he will be eating in the hotel is being brought on Air Force One and will all be kosher in deference to his daughter, Ivanka Trump, and son-in-law, who are orthodox Jews. All that the King David was asked to do was to organize hairdressing and make-up appointments and to ensure that there would be no other guests in the hotel.
On Friday night, Ritz managed to oversee a dinner for 120 people in honor of the Premier of Quebec who was staying at the hotel, and another dinner for an Australian trade delegation, which likewise checked out before noon on Sunday. The King David’s housekeeping staff are not permitted to enter Trump’s suite to clean up or even to lay the linens on the bed. The Americans take all this upon themselves, Ritz told The Jerusalem Post on Friday. All journalists traveling with Trump on Air Force One will stay at the King David, where a press center will be set up for them in addition to the larger press center at the Mamilla hotel.
The Government Press Office is setting up a press center at the Mamilla Hotel, which is within easy walking distance of the King David and the Dan Panorama, where most other journalists will be staying. There will be approximately 100 work stations equipped with high-speed Internet connections that will enable the uploading of video files, live Internet broadcasts, real-time access to raw materials and the ability for journalists to work directly with their office or broadcast outlets.
Every journalist will be given a personal app to enable high quality live broadcast via cell phone camera with minimal 1.5-second delay. All app users will receive a unique URL thus enabling each individual their own distinct broadcast channel with a transmission link that can be sent to their media outlets and social media.
The GPO will also provide services for on-line video streaming of live broadcasts, video players to view live broadcasts via a media asset management system, and a satellite downlink for the recorded live broadcasts, plus technical support services.
Smolenskin Street, where the Prime Minister ‘s Residence is located, is a small street full of cracks, uneven patches and potholes in the road. The Prime Minister’s residence is the last house on the street, and is number nine. For more than two years, half the street has been sealed off by a metal enclosure, plus a traffic barrier and heavy black curtains. Residents of the street are permitted on some occasions to pass through, but not always, and even when given permission by a security guard are often stopped by someone from the border police and have to argue their way through.
For more than a week now, even the rare privilege of walking to the end of the street has been denied the residents, because the whole of the enclosed area was dug up, re-fitted with security devices and other infrastructure and paved nicely for the Trump visit. The rest of the street is still a mess. Workers on Friday were putting the finishing touches on a huge security tent, much tighter than the one that was put up for Barack Obama.
Notices went up in the street and its surroundings advising motorists which streets would be blocked to traffic and parking. The notices were also placed on car windshields. The problem is that the notices are in Hebrew only, and the area is full of French and English speaking immigrants, not all of whom are sufficiently fluent in Hebrew to understand the content of the notice.
At the President’s residence, less than ten minutes walk away from that of the Prime Minister, road workers had been digging up the pavement for months to create a new entrance. It had nothing to do with the Trump visit, but was more or less completed in time for it. On Thursday and Friday, presidential staff were busy laying fresh new flower beds, assembling the stages for the media, installing media equipment and rolling out red carpets. Carpet sweeping at the President’s residence is done manually, and it is a very frustrating exercise for the people employed to do the sweeping, because almost without fail, after every speck of dust has been removed, someone will walk on the carpet and leave footprints. Efforts to prevent this by covering certain sections with a white piece of cloth are to no avail, because they are ignored by most of the people walking on the carpet.
President Reuven Rivlin and his wife Nechama will be part of the welcoming group of dignitaries who will greet President Trump on arrival at Ben Gurion International Airport, and will then have to rush back to Jerusalem to greet him again when he arrives at the President’s Residence.
It is customary when presidents of the United States or popes of Rome visit the President that they plant a tree together in the presidential garden. This time it will be an almond tree, and not any of the previously planted species, but it will be marked with a plaque whose message will be in the same gist as those of other tree planting ceremonies: ‘“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem, may they prosper that love thee. Peace be in thy walls, and prosperity in thy palaces.” (Psalms 122)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will have a little more breathing space than Rivlin. His meeting with Trump at the King David Hotel is scheduled for 6 p.m. At 7.30, Netanyahu and his wife Sara will host a dinner for Trump and his wife Melania at the Prime Minister’s residence, where other invitees will be subjected to the most stringent of security requirements.
At 8 p.m., Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman will host a dinner at the King David Hotel for Trump’s entourage and the Israeli delegation.
At 1 p.m. on Tuesday, Trump will visit Yad Vashem, and from there will go to the Israel Museum, where he will deliver a farewell statement prior to his departure from Israel.
All the dignitaries who will be at the airport on Monday to greet him on his arrival will be back there on Tuesday for a 4 p.m. farewell ceremony. No one from the King David will be permitted to enter his suite until he is well out of Israeli air space.