President Donald Trump is busy preparing for his first foreign trip since assuming office. He’s probably anxious to take a break from all the chaos and turmoil currently surrounding him and his administration.
During the nine-day, five-city foreign trip, he will travel to Saudi Arabia, Israel, Belgium, Italy and the Vatican.
However, it has emerged that Trump reportedly canceled a planned visit and speech at Masada National Park, a historic Israeli site, because he was not allowed to land his helicopter there. His aides were reportedly told by Israel that landing a helicopter at the site could damage the archeological artifacts due to the wind movement generated.
“Well Masada was too hot, so we found a great spot instead for POTUS,” said Eitan Weiss, deputy spokesperson for the Israeli Foreign Ministry, in a tweet.
Masada is one of Israel's most important historic sites. It is also listed as the World Heritage site by UNESCO. It is built upon a mountain overlooking the shores of the Dead Sea in southern Israel’s Judean desert, some 60 miles southeast of Jerusalem, making it one of the country’s archeological wonders.
The ancient site became a symbol of Jewish heroism after hundreds of Jews — 960 in total — there chose to kill themselves, rather than surrender to the Romans in 70 AD.
The Israeli Air Force (IAF) banned planes or helicopters from landing at the ancient site, forcing visitors to use cable cars or walk up 100 steps to get to the top. The decision came after an incident took place in 1997 when a military helicopter landed in the middle of Masada and caused damaged to the ruins.
Former U.S. presidents, such as George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, have traveled to the site using cable cars. However, Trump preferred to cancel his trip because he can't land a helicopter there.
“When Clinton visited in 1998, he came up with the old cable car and walked up 100 steps. George W. Bush came by the new cable car. We were saved the 100 steps,” said Eitan Campbell, director of the National Masada Park.
Here's Bill and Hillary Clinton visiting Israel's ancient Masada complex, which Trump wouldn't visit because he couldn't land by helicopter. pic.twitter.com/WOH8aowLcL— Zachary Fedell (@zatchry) May 18, 2017
Instead of the historic site, Trump will be speaking at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem during his visit on May 22.The office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declined to comment, referring any matters involving Trump’s schedule to the U.S. government. The Israeli Foreign Ministry also declined to comment on Trump’s schedule.
Trump’s visit to Israel has already been under a diplomatic test. White House officials also told Israelis that they didn’t want Netanyahu to accompany Trump during his visit to the Western Wall as it was in the West Bank. U.S. does not consider the West Bank a part of Israeli land. The move angered Israel and officials asked the White House for an explanation. Trump officials reiterated that it was not Trump’s position.
The trip also comes at a crucial time: Earlier this week, it was reported that Trump had given the Russian foreign minister and ambassador classified information provided by Israel, which has “soured” relationship between the two countries.
Israeli mood soured by Masada speech cancellation, 15 minutes at Yad Vashem, refusal to call Western Wall Israel's or move embassy to J'm. https://t.co/Wmian7e83g— Martin Indyk (@Martin_Indyk) May 18, 2017
Trump is going to move the US embassy to Masada.— Seth Mandel (@SethAMandel) May 16, 2017
In more hilarious news, Trump cancels visit to Masada after Israel refuses helicopter landing. Won't take cable car like some 99-percenter— Gary Shteyngart (@Shteyngart) May 18, 2017
Re cancellation of Trump's #Masada visit: Remember, WH staff said Trump avoids stairs; bet he fears cable cars and heights in general too.— Kimber Agonistes (@KimberAgonistes) May 19, 2017
Trump has canceled his visit to the famous fortress of Masada because he is "scared" to take the cable car.— Pesach 'Pace' Lattin (@pacelattin) May 19, 2017