Stores were closed, thousands of police were deployed and some residents were to be temporarily evicted from their homes, amid unprecedented security arrangements for US President Donald Trump’s walk through the Old City of Jerusalem on Monday afternoon.
Trump, due to arrive in Israel Monday for a two-day visit, is set to walk some 350 meters from Jaffa Gate to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre for a visit at 3:00 p.m. Monday. Stores along his route were closed from Monday morning and police said that some homes would be taken over by police to ensure the president’s security.
The police didn’t say how many stores or homes would be affected.
There is no vehicular access to the church, so dignitaries usually travel through New Gate to reach the closest possible point to the site. However, the presidential limousine is too large to negotiate the alleyways of the Old City, so Trump and his retinue will drive into the area through the large Jaffa Gate, and then proceed on foot from there.
Their likely route goes through the Christian Quarter of the Old City, which is mostly populated by Arab residents.
After visiting the church, Trump and his entourage will circle back to Jaffa Gate to their cars and drive to the Western Wall, which is accessible to vehicles.
The Western Wall plaza will also be emptied before Trump’s arrival, scheduled for 3:45 p.m.
Israel Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich said that police were doing all they could to minimize disruptions.
“Part of the challenge is to provide a reasonably normal way of life for the residents,” Alsheich told Channel 2. “Even though Jerusalem residents are good at being indoors during large events, they must be taken into account.”
The police chief also stressed that the policy was not discriminatory.
“We will close stores in both East Jerusalem and West Jerusalem for a short time. We will evacuate both residents and merchants,” Alsheich said. “There is no reason for a store to remain open when nobody will be able to come. This applies to both Jewish and Arab merchants. We will coordinate it with them, and it will be only for a very short time.”
Trump is scheduled to land at Ben Gurion airport at 12:45 p.m. Monday afternoon, and following a brief ceremony will be taken by helicopter to the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, where he will stay for the two days.
The main highway to Jerusalem will be closed for two hours to allow the president’s entourage to drive to the capital.
The US president is set to meet with President Reuven Rivlin at 1.45 p.m. at the President’s Residence before setting off on visits to the Old City sites.
While her husband visits the Old City, First Lady Melania Trump and Sara Netanyahu will visit Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital, at 3:00 p.m.
Trump will meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the King David Hotel at 6:00 p.m., followed by a dinner at 7:30 p.m. at the Prime Minister’s Residence where Trump and Netanyahu will be joined by their wives.
On Tuesday morning, Trump will head to Bethlehem at 10:00 a.m. for a meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. He may visit the Church of the Nativity in the city.
The Israeli part of his visit then resumes Tuesday with a 1:00 p.m. wreath-laying ceremony at the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum.
At 2 p.m. Trump is due to move on to deliver an address at the Israel Museum located across the street from the Knesset. This is set to be the main speech of his Israel trip.
The US president will then return to Ben Gurion Airport and lift off for Italy, and the Vatican leg of his trip, at 4 p.m.
Major traffic disruptions are expected in Jerusalem throughout the visit on Monday and Tuesday. Police are advising residents to use public transportation, particularly the city’s light rail, and to check traffic updates on the Waze navigation app.