By Mireya Navarro, Global Editor, CNN • Updated 22nd May 2017
(CNN) — Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin returned from a historic visit to Jerusalem’s Wailing Wall and the Temple Mount with a wish to “push back” Israel’s status quo in the region.
Rivlin also attended Hanukkah events in Bethlehem and at a traditional home in Israel.
“It was an amazing experience to see sacred spaces going through tremendous transformation,” said Rivlin in a statement.
“There were visual memories and senses of wonder, in every prayer and in every place I visited, some of them very strong.”
Rivlin, a former chief rabbi of Israel, visited the Wailing Wall and met with a Jewish group of activists from Judea and Samaria, a term for the territory that has been part of Israel since 1967, but claims the ancient Land of Israel.
Rivlin also visited a public school in Bethlehem, in the West Bank, where he met with Christian and Muslim youth for a discussion on the importance of maintaining peaceful coexistence in the region.
“I hope that, during my presidency, we will push back the status quo which I don’t consider fair or appropriate and make it clear to everyone that Jerusalem, even as a city, is too sacred and too valuable to be surrounded by walls and checkpoints,” said Rivlin.
Rivlin’s visit to the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron’s Cave of the Patriarchs was his first official trip to the area since he was elected President of Israel in 2013.
“I have been to Hebron more than 50 times,” said Rivlin in a statement. “But the recent changes at the Tomb of the Patriarchs are the most overwhelming ones I have ever seen.”
The tomb, located inside the Jabara cemetery, is revered by Jews as the first site of Abraham’s services.