JERUSALEM (Aug. 30)
United Nations Secretary General Kurt Waldheim arrived in Jerusalem today, his third stop on a five-nation tour of the Middle East, paid a formal call on President Ephraim Katzir, visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial and met for three hours with Premier Golda Meir and Foreign Minister Abba Eban. “We touched on practically all aspects of the Middle East problem,” Waldheim told reporters after the meeting which lasted 90 minutes more than planned. “I am grateful for the frank exchange of views which helped me understand better the situation.”
After the meeting Waldheim made a short tour of the holy places in East Jerusalem. This part of the visit was considered private and the Israel and UN flags were removed from the car in which he was driven. During his visit to the Holy Sepulcher, a Coptic nun presented to Waldheim a memorandum urging him to convince the Egyptian government to stop persecuting the Coptic community in Egypt, Waldheim is also expected to visit the Western Wall, the mosques on the Temple Mount and the Mount of Olives. This evening he is expected to attend a dinner at Eban’s residence.
Eban greeted Waldheim when he arrived at Lod Airport from Cyprus this morning. The Secretary General’s motorcade went directly from the airport to the capital. He and his party were escorted to the Presidential residence where the United Nations flag flew today side-by-side with the Israeli flag. Waldheim and President Katzir shook hands and exchanged greetings-briefly.
Unusually heavy security precautions surrounded the UN leader’s visit. The King David Hotel, where Waldheim and his party are staying, was virtually surrounded by police and police barriers set up during the night controlled the flow of traffic in front of the hotel. Jerusalem’s police chiefs personally joined the special security escort accompanying Waldheim.
REFUSES TO COVER HEAD AT YAD VASHEM
The visit to the Yad Vashem is a formality that every visiting dignitary performs. But the visit to the memorial by Waldheim was marred when the Secretary General refused to cover his head as he entered the tent a few minutes before the religious ceremony started. He was asked twice to cover is head and refused both times. During the memorial prayer for the six million Jews who died in the Holocaust, Waldheim seemed visibly moved as a cantor recited Yizkor.
The Austrian diplomat placed a wreath on the memorial stone and stood in silence for several minutes. When reporters asked him to express his feelings. Waldheim replied, “I am deeply moved by what I have seen here and I have the deepest respect for the sacrifice of millions of people. This is a terrible history and I hope and pray that it will never be repeated.”
When Waldheim left Yad Vashem he was asked by newsmen to comment on the incident in the memorial tent where he refused to cover his head. He replied that there are various ways to feel and express respect and mourning, and added that he was deeply moved and shocked by all the things he had seen in Yad Vashem.