Vice President Mike Pence ‘inspired’ after praying at Western Wall
US VP Mike Pence prays at the Western Wall, January 23, 2018 (Herb Keinon)
US Vice President Mike Pence spent his last afternoon in Israel at the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City. The vice president and the second lady prayed at Judaism’s holy site.
Asked by reporters how he felt about his visit to the Western Wall, the vice president said he felt “inspired.”
Pence signed the guest book of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation: “It is a great honor to pray here at this sacred place. God bless the Jewish people, God bless the state of Israel always. Vice President Mike Pence.”
Before they began their prayer, the couple received an explanation about the site and its importance to the Jewish people.
A special tent was erected in the Western Wall prayer plaza. The site was closed off to enable Pence and his delegation privacy during prayers.
Pence spent about 10 minutes Tuesday afternoon at the Western Wall, his last stop in Israel before returning home.
The Western Wall, plaza usually busy with worshipers, was emptied for 4 hours in the morning to prepare for the vice president’s visit.
Pence entered the tent, recited some words of Scripture, and approached the wall, standing it front of it with his hand on the stones for about 30 seconds.
Western Wall officials then presented him with a gift of a stone hanukkiah.
On the other side of the women’s section, Second Lady Karen Pence received an explanation from officials at the site, then approached the wall, where she prayed alone for a few minutes.
Keeping with Jewish tradition at the holy site, female journalists were placed behind a barrier. Some of the reporters objected to the gender segregation because they said it would prevent them from doing their job.
“I was invited to cover this event by the US Embassy. I am not here as a private individual. I am standing her behind a fence and can’t do my job,” Globes political reporters Tal Shneider told Maariv.
“I am very angry, I feel that the White House was recruited to do the dirty work of the Western Wall rabbi,” said LA Times reporter Noga Tarnopolsky. “In the year 2018 and in public they are preventing women from doing our jobs.”
Among the American contingents present were US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and US Mideast Envoy Jason Greenblatt.
Pence’s visit follows on the heels of visits to the site by US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley and US President Donald Trump, breaking the long-standing “taboo” of sitting US officials not visiting the site on official business.
Earlier Monday Pence visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial where he paid tribute to the six million Jews who were murdered during WWII.
Before that he met with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin at his residence in Jerusalem. The two discussed a range of regional issues and spoke about the Jewish people’s centuries old ties to the holy city.
On Sunday, Pence gave a well received speech at the Knesset, and later delivered joint statements with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ahead of a private dinner.
“With President [Donald] Trump in the White House, and with your strong leadership here in Israel, the best days of the US and our most cherished ally, Israel, are yet to come,” Pence told Netanyahu.
At the Knesset, Pence affirmed the US’s support of Israel and urged the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table, and said the “shehechiyanu” blessing to thank God for for the occasion.
Pence is the first senior US politician to arrive in Israel since US President Donald Trump announced his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and intention to move the US Embassy there. His visit was highly anticipated in Israel but shunned by the Palestinians, who refused to meet Pence because of Trump’s decision.