President Barack Obama plans to make several symbolic gestures on his upcoming tour in Israel
, to assure the Jewish state that America is committed to its security, as tensions rise in the surrounding region.
One of the first sites Obama will visit on his tour to Israel next week will be the Iron Dome
missile batteries, which the United States partially funded and the Israeli military used to shoot down incoming Palestinian rockets.
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"What the president is saying is that there should be a state of Israel and it’s the place where the Jewish
people belong," New York Sen. Charles Schumer told CBS 2′s Marcia Kramer on Wednesday.
Additionally, the president is scheduled to visit the graves of former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Theodor Herzl, the founder of Zionism, as well as the Shrine of the Book, where the Dead Sea Scrolls are housed.
Jewish leaders say visiting the Shrine is extremely important cultural trip. Obama's position as a world leader visiting the site will further legitimize the Jewish state.
"If you take away our past, you take away our future, and this is a statement by going to the Dead Sea Scrolls," said Malcolm Hoenlein, of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. "The message will be a positive one to say Israel is a reality, a stark reality, a future reality, deal with ‘em."
Senator Schumer agreed with Hoenlein.
"It shows that the Jewish people have been in Israel for thousands and thousands of years," Schumer said.
During his visit, the president will also deliver a speech to college students across the state, including some Palestinian students.
One university that reportedly has not been invited to see Obama speak is Ariel University in the West Bank, which is located in an Israeli settlement
. In the past, the Obama administration has opposed such settlements. In late November, U.S. officials called the settlements "counterproductive" to the peace process with the Palestinians.
Some feel the snub won't be good for democracy's sake.
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"I think that the symbolic gesture [is] appreciated and understood by the Palestinian side, but I also think that as the leader of the greatest democracy in the world, I think it’s essential to have all parties hear what you have to say," said Zead Ramadan, of the Council on American-Islamic Relations of New York.
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