Politics

Ivanka And Melania Stay On Women's Side Of Western Wall

| by Lauren Briggs

On May 22, President Donald Trump became the first sitting American president to visit Jerusalem's Western Wall. His wife Melania and daughter Ivanka, who also made the trip, followed the holy site's gender restrictions and kept to the women's side of the prayer area.

During Trump's first trip abroad as president, he donned a yarmulke and paused to reflect before leaving a note at the holy spot with son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner, who along with wife Ivanka follows Orthodox Judaism, notes NBC News.

"It was deeply meaningful to visit the holiest site of my faith and to leave a note of prayer," Ivanka, who converted before marrying Kushner, wrote on Twitter.

Presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama have all visited the Western Wall as candidates or private citizens but never did so as president.

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President Trump did not specify whether he considers the wall, which is not officially recognized as belonging to Israel, a part of the Jewish nation, though he did call it a "great honor" to set foot there.

"I can see a much deeper path, friendship with Israel," the president added, according to NBC.

Newsweek notes that a number of Orthodox Jews worried that Ivanka and Melania would accompany the president to the men's prayer area and take a bold stance on the controversial issue, potentially causing trouble. However, some experts doubted that they would make such a move.

"I can't imagine such an arrangement being permitted for any other visitor, so I don't know that it has even been agreed to," former U.S. ambassador Dan Shapiro told The Forward, according to Newsweek. "If it has it seems to me a truly exceptional arrangement and pushed for very hard by the American side."

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The issue has been a polarizing one leading up to the Trumps' visit, with Reform Jews fighting and protesting for equal prayer rights at the wall for all genders while some Orthodox Jews vocally oppose such a change.

Female pool reporters were also not permitted to follow Trump to the men's prayer section and were instructed to remain on the women's side.

Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, told the Huffington Post that he expected the Trump family to maintain gender segregation at the prayer site, also called the Kotel; Jacobs also said it was "stirring" to see the president's moment of silent reflection at the wall.

"We have been in touch with the new U.S. Ambassador about the Kotel issue -- and the issues of religious pluralism in Israel more generally -- and we sincerely hope that we get continued U.S. encouragement regarding the enfranchisement of the majority of world Jewry in Israel, whether it is at the Kotel or elsewhere in Israel," Jacobs told The Post.

Sources: ​NBC News, Newsweek, Huffington Post, Ivanka Trump/Twitter / Photo credit: Askii/Wikimedia Commons

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