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.
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.
Kushner prayed alongside White House chief economic adviser Gary Cohn, National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
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.
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