On May 22, President Donald Trump became the first sitting US president to not just go visit the Western Wall in Eastern Jerusalem, but he also said a traditional prayer when he was at the site. Melania and Ivanka followed suit, although they stayed on the women’s side of the wall.
Trump respectfully wore a yarmulke, along with his son-in-law, Jared Kushner. The two paused to reflect and leave a note in the wall.
“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.
While almost every president has been to the Western wall, it was never in official capacity as a sitting president.
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.
“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.”
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.