Donald Trump on Monday became the first sitting U.S. president to visit the Western Wall, the holiest site where Jews can pray and left a prayer note there in accordance with Jewish custom. He made the highly symbolic visit to a site which symbolizes the Middle East’s tinderbox nature before saying he believed in the possibility of a peace deal and saying that the danger of Iran meant there was ‘a lot of love out there’ for Israel from unlikely Muslim countries.
Located in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem, the Western Wall is a section of one of four original retaining walls King Herod built in the first century B.C. to support the Temple Mount. It is also the only remaining portion of the Second Jewish Temple, which stood in Jerusalem until the Romans destroyed it in 70 A.D. as they put down a Jewish revolt.
It has been U.S. policy for the last 50 years to not recognize East Jerusalem as part of Israel, making a visit to the wall a political minefield. But Trump, clad in a navy suit, red striped tie, and black kippah, strode into the Western Wall Prayer Plaza in Jerusalem’s Old City on Monday before placing his hand on the stone wall and praying for 30 seconds, slipping a note inside a crack between the stones.
Shmuel Rabinovich, the Rabbi of the Western Wall, led the president and his son-in-law Jared Kushner through a brief lesson about the location’s significance while first lady Melania Trump and daughter Ivanka Trump looked on. Jared later followed his father-in-law to the wall while the Rabbi’s wife accompanied Ivanka and Melania to the ‘women’s prayer section’ nearby, in keeping with the gender-segregated Orthodox custom.
Ivanka closed her eyes and said her own prayer. The first lady placed her hand on the wall and slipped a note between the stones. She converted to Judaism to marry Kushner, an Orthodox Jew, and the couple received a rabbinical dispensation to allow them to fly to the Middle East and travel on the Sabbath.
Afterward, President Trump stood in the plaza and read a section of Psalms with the rabbi, joined by Mordechai Elias, the director general of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation.
Amid tight security, Mr. Trump was not accompanied by Israeli leaders and went alone to the wall. It followed a clash between the US and the government of Benjamin Netanyahu over the status of Jerusalem after the White House refused to say whether it considered the wall to be part of Israel.
Yesterday US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said, ‘The wall is part of Jerusalem’. He did not elaborate on the delicate question of whether the Trump administration would change US policy over the status of Jerusalem, which both Israelis and Palestinians want to claim as their capital. Barack Obama visited the Western Wall in 2008 when he was a presidential candidate. The note he left behind was stolen and later published. ‘Lord,’ it read, protect my family and me. Forgive me my sins, and help me guard against pride and despair. Give me the wisdom to do what is right and just. And make me an instrument of your will.
Barack Obama visited the Western Wall in 2008 when he was a presidential candidate. The note he left behind was stolen and later published. ‘Lord,’ it read, protect my family and me. Forgive me my sins, and help me guard against pride and despair. Give me the wisdom to do what is right and just. And make me an instrument of your will.
The White House has not said what Trump wrote on his own prayer note, but press secretary Sean Spicer told a pool reporter that he would find out. Jewish Israelis see the entirety of Jerusalem as their 3,000-year-old capital. Old Testament scripture teaches that King David made Jerusalem the capital of a unified kingdom of Israel about 1,000 years before the birth of Christ.
But Palestinians, who are about one-third of modern Jerusalem’s residents, claim East Jerusalem as the capital of a yet-to-be-recognized Palestinian nation. East Jerusalem is also home to al-Aqsa mosque, which is Islam’s third-holiest site. The other two, the mosques in Mecca and Medina, are both parts of modern-day Saudi Arabia.
According to the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv, Muslims refer to the Western Wall as the ‘Buraq Wall’ because they believe the Prophet Muhammed tied his winged horse, named ‘Buraq,’ to the wall during the Prophet’s Night of Ascension.
Trump’s visit to Israel and the West Bank is meant as a peace overture, and the White House has been careful not to appear partisan in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The president is meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday evening, and with Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday morning. The White House said last week that Trump would go to the Western Wall without any Israeli politicians in tow. Netanyahu had asked to join the visit.
Trump said Monday evening in Jerusalem that he sees ‘a lot of love’ for Israel among Arab nations that have typically been standoffish at best in their attitudes toward the Jewish state.
The president has spent the day parlaying a weekend full of meetings in Saudi Arabia into a rationale for a new Middle East peace framework, one that uses the region’s pervasive fear and hatred of Iran as the basis of what he called ‘a new level of partnership.’
‘We’re going to have very productive discussions, in my opinion, with the leaders of other nations,’ Trump said at the famed King David hotel, referring to Muslim countries. ‘And I feel strongly about that because there’s a lot of love out there.’
‘People from all nations, even nations you would be surprised to hear – they want to stop the killing. They’ve had enough.’ Trump did not mention the names of specific potential partners other than Saudi Arabia, whose King Salman played host to him for two days before his arrival Monday morning in Tel Aviv.
The president stood alongside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and delivered brief remarks between a bilateral meeting and a private double-date dinner with their wives.
Trump said leaders of Gulf states and other Muslim-majority countries who spoke with him in Riyadh share Israel’s goal of stabilizing the Middle East and are willing to work in tandem with Israel on a set of related objectives.
Donald Trump on Monday became the first sitting U.S. president to visit the Western Wall, Judaism’s holiest place of prayer
Trump heard a lesson about the site’s significance from Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz and Mordechai Elias who leads the Western Wall Heritage Foundation.