Total Pageviews

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Romney Visits Western Wall


JERUSALEM - Mitt Romney and his wife, Ann, made an unscheduled stop at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City Sunday afternoon, and both placed a prayer in one of the wall's many cracks.

Mr. Romney arrived at the Western Wall on Tisha B'av - a solemn holiday commemorating the destruction of the First and Second Jewish Temples of Jerusalem - but Mr. Romney's security detail and name recognition rendered the scene at the Western Wall a bit more scene-y than usual. Barricades were set up to block off the front area, and women stood on chairs to peer over at Mr. Romney from their segregated section to the right. Some in the crowd shouted out greetings more typical of campaign rallies than the Western Wall - “Jerusalem, the capital of Israel!” and “Beat Obama, governor!”

Mr. Romney was also accompanied to the wall by Rabbi Schmuel Rabinowitz, the chief rabbi of the wall, as well as a coterie of aides and donors - Spencer Zwick, his national finance chairman; J. Philip Rosen, a partner in the New York law firm Weil, Gotshal & Manges who owns a home here and gives frequently to Republican candidates; L.E. Simmons, the founder of a private equity firm with a focus on oil; Bob White, the chairman of Mr. Romney's campaign, as well as a close friend; Lanhee Chen, Mr. Romney's foreign policy adviser; and Rick Gorka, a traveling spokesman for the campaign.

A small crowd applauded when Mr. and Mrs. Romney exited their motorcade, before proceeding to separate portions of the wall, which is partitioned off by gender. Mr. Romney was immediately mobbed, but he shook hands and greeted the crowd - “Very nice to meet you, good to see you,” Mr. Romney said, as onlookers snapped pictures - while trying to remain solemn.

Mr. Romney, wearing a black yarmulke, was then handed a piece of paper, on which he wrote a note to insert i nto the wall, as is traditional. He approached the Wall, bowed his head, and placed his right hand on the Wall. After several moments, he reached up and stuck his folder note into a crack on the wall.

Rabbi Rabinowitz gave a Mr. Romney a book, “Touching the Stone of Our Heritage,” and Mr. Romney passed it to his body man, Garrett Jackson.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Romney walked up to a portion of the wall that had also been blocked off, inserted her note, and paused for several minutes, her right hand against the brick. She then slowly turned and began walking back to the motorcade, still accompanied by a local guide who briefed her on the Wall's history. Though several well-wishers shouted out compliments about her husband - “We are pulling for Mitt! We want Mitt! We need a real leader!” - Mrs. Romney simply smiled and nodded. When a pool reporter asked her what her prayer had said, she again smiled - and ignored the question.

Mr. and Mrs. Romney eventually returned to their motorcade, returning to the King David Hotel, where they're staying. But before he left, two women peering over at the spectacle below tried to puzzle out the meaning of Mr. Romney's visit.

“He must love Jewish if he come here,” offered the first woman, but her friend had an alternate theory.

“It's political,” she said.