Up against the Wall
Sarah Palin, the ex-candidate and present day minor celebrity, apparently had second thoughts about crossing an Israeli checkpoint on Monday to visit Bethlehem during a three-day visit to Jerusalem. Why didn't she cross over by foot, like most Christian tourists, and hire a Bethlehem-based guide? Conal Urquhart reports from the Holy Land for the Guardian newspaper:
The former governor of Alaska pulled up to the checkpoint run by the Israeli border police to the south of Jerusalem in a white people carrier, with her husband, Todd, her assistant and Israeli guides.
None of the occupants left the car nor did they speak to the police officers at the checkpoint, according to photographers at the scene. They then turned around and drove away. A spokesman for the Israeli police said there was no incident at the checkpoint and a spokesman for the Israeli army said that Palin's group had not co-ordinated a visit to the occupied Palestinian territory.
Palin's group then stopped at a nearby Greek Orthodox monastery before returning to her hotel in the centre of west Jerusalem from where they later continued their tour of the city.
Tourists need to carry passports to cross checkpoints into the occupied Palestinian territory and Israelis are not normally permitted to enter areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority, such as Bethlehem.
From the checkpoint Palin would have been able to see the high concrete walls that separate Bethlehem from Jerusalem.
Palin arrived in Israel on Sunday night after a delivering a speech in India on a rare foreign trip. She is due to meet Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, on Monday evening.
On arriving in Jerusalem Palin visited the tunnels next to the Western Wall, Judaism's holiest site, which is believed to have been part of the walls of the Jewish temple destroyed by the Romans in 70AD.
Palin wore a Star of David, the symbol of Judaism, around her neck, prayed close to the wall and lodged a written prayer in a crevice, according to tradition.
Palin told reporters: " It's overwhelming to be able to see and touch the cornerstone of our faith. I'm so thankful to be able to be here and I'm thankful to know the Israel-American connection will grow and strengthen as the peace negotiations continue."
Danny Danon, the Likud party member of the Knesset who invited Palin to Israel and accompanied her to the Western Wall, said Palin was moved by being close to the wall. "The visit was educational and spiritual. She was a strong friend of Israel and she will become a stronger advocate of Israel in the future," he said.
"The main purpose of the visit was to get acquainted with Israel and the holy sites. It was her first visit but I am sure she will come again."