WASHINGTON — US President Donald Trump was evidently moved by his visit Monday to the Western Wall in Jerusalem. So moved that he’s felt compelled to feature as his Twitter header a picture of himself at Judaism’s holiest active prayer site.
On Monday evening, Trump had changed the background image of his notorious social media account to a photograph of himself with his right hand on the wall, eyes closed, seemingly in prayer or reflection.
The move came hours after Trump made history as the first sitting American president to visit the site located in Jerusalem’s Old City. He was accompanied by his wife Melania and Jewish relatives; his son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner and daughter Ivanka, also an adviser.
Donning a black kippah, Trump placed a note deep inside one of the cracks of the wall. Besides the presidential delegation, security, media, Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch and some others, the location was emptied of worshippers to accommodate the presidential visit.
Last week, the Trump administration stirred some controversy over its description of the wall’s status.
In preparing for the trip, Israeli officials had asked their American counterparts whether Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could accompany Trump to the wall, but were rebuffed.
A senior American official reportedly sniped at the Israelis that the Western Wall is “not your territory. It’s part of the West Bank.”
The White House promptly distanced itself from those remarks, saying they were not sanctioned by official channels and did not represent the president.
National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, however, twice declined to clarify whether the US considered the wall as part of sovereign Israel during a press conference. He said that question “sounds like a policy decision.”
The Western Wall, part of the retaining walls of the Second Temple compound, is the closest point of prayer for Jews to the site of the Temple Mount itself and thus the Jewish people’s holiest place of prayer.
It was captured along with the rest of the Old City and East Jerusalem in the 1967 war, and annexed by Israel as part of its united capital — a move not recognized internationally.
Several previous US presidents have visited the Western Wall, but Trump was the first to do so while in office.