Local Jewish community hopeful about Obama's visit to Israel

POSTED: 06:00 PM PDT Mar 20, 2013    UPDATED: 07:33 PM PDT Mar 20, 2013 
Obama in Israel 2
PALM DESERT, Calif. -

The local Jewish community is watching President Obama's visit to Israel very closely, especially amidst threats of chemical weapons in Syria and a nuclear Iran.  This is President Obama's first visit to the country in his two terms as president.  "I do think it's about time," said Alan Jacobs, a Palm Desert resident.  Jacobs helps make up the about 30,000 members of the Jewish community in the Coachella Valley.  "What they will actually accomplish I don't know," said Jacobs.  "But just going there, I think is a big step."

A step focused heavily on a nuclear Iran.  Temple Sinai Rabbi Jordan Ofseyer fears it's a problem which reaches beyond Israel's borders.  "I'm concerned for the Israelis," said Ofseyer.  " I'm concerned for the Iranians, I'm concerned for the whole region.  It really is a regional issue, if not beyond that."

President Obama told Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, he believes there's still time to reach a diplomatic solution with Iran.  Jacobs disagrees.   "I do believe that somewhere in the future, we will have to go in and dismantle their nuclear facilities," said Jacobs.

Israeli leaders also expressed concern over the possible use of chemical weapons in neighboring Syria. They fear the weapons could end up with one of the many factions who pose a threat to the Jewish state. "Nobody's in control of anything, so it makes it very difficult for any peace process to go through," said Jacobs.

"As President Obama has said, a clear red line for us," said Ofseyer.   "So that's part of the framework for us, of grave concern."

While President Obama will spend only four days in the Middle East, the local Jewish community hopes his visit marks the beginning of what they've always wanted.  "A way to have the different sides come together, and try to find a way toward peace," said Ofseyer.