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Obama quotes ‘Hatikvah’ in Passover message

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WASHINGTON (JTA) — President Obama in his Passover message cited the Israeli national anthem’s invocation of an ancient Jewish longing for a homeland.

"Last week, I visited the State of Israel for the third time, my first as president," Obama said in his message Monday just hours before the start of the holiday. "I reaffirmed our countries’ unbreakable bonds with Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu and [Shimon] President Peres.

"I had the chance to speak directly with young Israelis about the future they wanted for their country, their region and the world. And I saw once again how the dream of true freedom found its full expression in those words of hope from ‘Hatikvah,’ ‘lihyot am chofshi be’artzeinu, ‘To be a free people in our land.’ "

The Obamas on Monday evening hosted a seder, a White House tradition begun by Obama. The seder featured a seder plate given as a gift by Sara Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister’s wife, to Michelle Obama, the first lady.

Earlier Monday, Ben Rhodes, the deputy national security adviser who helped plan Obama’s trip last week to Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian areas, briefed Jewish- and Arab-American leaders about the trip in an off-the-record call.

Separately, the Rabbinical Assembly, the umbrella body for the Conservative movement, wrote Obama thanking him for the trip, saying it had created a "personal and intimate bond" between Obama and Israel’s people.

"It is our fondest hope that this new and powerful connection, characterized by enhanced trust and respect, will open the door to renewed progress in the quest for an enduring peace between Israel and the Palestinians," said the letter.

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