Making a rare media appearance, Ivanka Trump, daughter of US President Donald Trump, described her visit to the Western Wall during a recent trip to Jerusalem as one of many “surreal” moments since her father assumed office.
“It was the first time a sitting president was at the Western Wall and visited the Kotel,” she said on Fox News’s “Fox and Friends” Monday morning, using the Hebrew word for the site. “Every day in this experience has been surreal, but that was truly an unbelievable moment, so I feel truly blessed and privileged to have been there.”
A “Fox and Friends” interviewer pressed Trump as to what the visit meant to her as a convert to Judaism.
“It was deeply personal for me as you note standing at the Western Wall in a moment of privacy, because it was really just us, it was our family that was there,” she said. “It was beyond special — for each of these moments it’s hard to find the words to adequately describe them.”
Tweeting shortly after the visit, she described the experience as “deeply meaningful.” But Trump received backlash for referring to the Western Wall as Judaism’s “holiest site,” with critics pointing out that the Temple Mount has more religious significance.
It was deeply meaningful to visit the holiest site of my faith and to leave a note of prayer.
???? Associated Press (AP) pic.twitter.com/9xzpZQywL2
— Ivanka Trump (@IvankaTrump) May 22, 2017
The Western Wall, one of the retaining walls of the Second Temple compound, is the closest point of prayer for Jews to the site of the Temple itself. Non-Muslims are banned from praying at the compound as part of Israel’s status quo agreement with the Jordanian custodians.
— Fox News (@FoxNews) June 12, 2017
Last month, Trump became the first sitting US president to visit the Western Wall.
Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch and Western Wall Heritage Foundation director Mordechai Eliav met the black kippah-clad Trump at the entrance to the plaza, which was emptied of worshipers for the presidential visit. Ivanka Trump and First Lady Melania Trump visited the women’s section while the president and Ivanka’s husband, Jared Kushner, visited the men’s side.
In order to soothe diplomatic tensions, Trump refused to be accompanied by leading Israeli officials and described the visit as personal. Last week, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley also made a personal visit to the site.
On Monday, Ivanka Trump also praised her father and Kushner, a White House aide, for the ostensible successes of Trump’s first foreign tour as president last month.
“It was amazing the leadership my father showed, the way he was able to foster real dialogue, substantive dialogue that not only concluded in billions of dollars, $400 billion of business for American businesses, which was an amazing thing in of itself, but there was able to be this substantive dialogue with these 54 leaders about how they’ll collectively join to stop funding terrorism,” she said.
The business deals discussed on the trip are still at the proposal level. The commitment to collectively defund terrorism resulted in part in the decision by five Arab countries to isolate Qatar, where much funding for terrorist activity originates, setting off a minor diplomatic crisis because Qatar is also a US ally housing a major American military base.
Trump told Fox she did not anticipate the “viciousness” her father’s presidency would bring upon her.
“There is a level of viciousness that I was not expecting, I was not expecting the intensity of this experience,” she said. “I think some of the distractions and some of the ferocity I was a little blindsided by on a personal level.”
She did not describe what attacks particularly affected her. She has come under fire from the left for claiming to bring progressive values to the White House, including on LGBT and women’s rights, while her father rolled back some gains in those areas. Meanwhile, a skit aired by “Saturday Night Live” in which Ivanka, who before joining the White House ran an eponymous lifestyle branding company, launches a perfume called Complicit has gone viral.
Trump said she understood the work would not be easy and was instead focused on advancing her father’s jobs agenda.
“My father and this administration intends to be transformative, and we want to do big bold things and we’re looking to change the status quo,” she said.