The alarm rings at 4:55 a.m. and I get up, look outside and see that it’s pouring rain and foggy. I won’t go running today. The alarm rings again at 5:40 a.m., and the house wakes up. We spend the next hour and twenty minutes getting ready. My son, almost nine, needs to leave with me for school. My daughter, almost four, needs to be ready for her pickup to a school for severely handicapped children. She will be a vision in pink – even her wheelchair has pink accents. The Embassy, Consulate, and State Department have been extraordinarily supportive of our situation, which makes it much easier to work the long hours of Secretary Clinton’s first visit to Jerusalem.
We arrive at Yad Vashem at 8:30 a.m. Yad Vashem literally translates to “hand and name.” Yad, however, can also mean memorial, and so the correct translation is “The Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Memorial.” The memorial is located on top of the Mount of Remembrance in the Jerusalem Forest and is near Israel’s military cemetery. It is a large complex with many buildings, and the Secretary will spend a lot of time outside. Our site visits to organize logistics for Secretary Clinton and the press were plagued by heavy rain, sleet, and fog. Today it is overcast and windswept, but the rain from early this morning has stopped.
Our small delegation consists of the embassy’s press site officer, the Secretary’s advance press officer, and two locally employed staff. Our local staff will help to insure that this vast site is set up properly and to save spaces for the CBS crew to set up their cameras at the Hall of Remembrance and outside the Children’s Memorial, where Secretary Clinton will sign the guest book. I am the overall embassy site officer and spend most of my time working with the Diplomatic Security agent-in-charge to make sure that the site is how we want it.
10:30 a.m. the Secretary arrives, exactly on time. She is met by Chief Rabbi Lau of the Yad Vashem Council and is guided through the site. This is her fourth visit to Yad Vashem and much has changed, including a new main Holocaust Museum, and they stop along the way to view it from above. We have arranged for a tour guide to link up with the delegation of Senior Staff and they get a slightly separate tour. At this point the visit has become a whirlwind of moving people and cameras. The Secretary views a new exhibit of paintings by Bruno Schulz, who was forced to paint fairy tale scenes on the nursery walls of a Nazi officer’s home.
The wreath-laying ceremony, with Ankor Children’s choir, is perfect and we manage to get the senior staff through the Children’s Memorial ahead of the Secretary. We wait. Secretary Clinton exits the Children’s Memorial and in front of a very aggressive press pool filming, photographing, and recording, she calmly signs the book. Later we will copy down what she has written in case someone from the delegation asks. Secretary Clinton departs. The visit, by and large, a success. I am relieved and a bit deflated as I watch the motorcade drive away. We collect our things, scan the site for anything left behind, climb into our car and depart.