President Trump made history today by becoming the first sitting American president to visit Israel’s Western Wall, one of the holiest sites in all of Judaism.
Trump arrived in Israel today with First Lady Melania, daughter Ivanka, and son-in-law Jared Kushner. Kushner is an orthodox Jew, and Ivanka converted when she married him.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and other members of the cabinet attended as well.
The President met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other members of the Israeli government, pledging support for America’s strongest ally in the Middle East. The visit to the Western Wall, however, is not only historic, it is a significant step in American/Israeli relations.
For the last 50 years, the United States has not officially recognized eastern Jerusalem as part of Israel. By visiting the Western Wall, President Trump is breaking with longstanding policy not to become involved with the issue of who should control east Jerusalem. It is a point of contention between Israel and the Muslim world. Islam considers the Western Wall to be a holy site as well, and a Muslim mosque on the Temple Mount is the third-holiest site in all of Islam.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Here is video of Trump’s visit to the Western Wall, from CBS News.
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