President Donald Trump made a historic, yet private visit Monday to the Kosel, becoming the first sitting American president to do so.
Trump, who was accompanied by his wife Melania as well as his Jewish daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner, was presented with a Tehillim containing the inscription of his name by Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, the rabbi of the Kosel.
Afterward, Trump separated from the women in his delegation and headed to the men’s section of the Kosel, where he stood for several minutes before placing a customary note inside the wall’s cracks.
Trump’s visit came after last week’s controversial statements by U.S. officials regarding the holy site’s status. David Berns, political counselor at the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem, reportedly told his Israeli counterparts the Kosel “is not in your territory.”
The Trump administration quickly disavowed the statement, but at a subsequent White House press conference, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster declined to say whether the U.S. considers the Kosel as part of Israel, commenting that the matter “sounds like a policy decision.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly sought to accompany Trump on his visit to the Kosel, but the Trump administration rejected the request.
The Kosel, regarded as one of the holiest sites in Judaism, is the outer retaining wall of the Second Temple destroyed by the Romans in the 1st century A.D. Israel gained control over the Kosel during the 1967 Six-Day War as it captured the eastern half of Jerusalem from Jordan. Despite the Kosel’s significance to Judaism and Israel’s control over a united Yerushalayim, the international community—including the U.S.—has refused to officially recognize the Kosel as part of Israel.