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Trump becomes first sitting US president to visit Western Wall

US President Donald Trump visits the Western Wall, the holiest site where Jews can pray, in Jerusalem’s Old City on May 22, 2017
MANDEL NGAN (AFP)
President and family, including Jewish daughter and son-in-law, pray at holy site

Donald Trump on Tuesday became the first sitting US president to visit the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City, part of the Temple Mount complex that is the holiest site in Judaism.

Wearing a kippah, Trump silently placed his hand on the wall and placed the traditional personal note of prayer between its stones.

He was not accompanied by any Israeli leaders during the hugely symbolic visit.

Heidi Levine (POOL/AFP)

Orthodox Jewish son-in-law Jared Kushner initially hung back, but then approached the wall to offer prayers alongside economic adviser Gary Cohn, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

The president's daughter Ivanka, who is an Orthodox Jew, and wife Melania, visited the women-only area of the wall, each tucking her own note in the wall. The first daughter appeared to shed a tear as she took a moment of reflection at the wall, the last remnant of the Second Temple, which was destroyed in 70 CE.

The entourage was greeted at the Western Wall by the site's rabbi, Shmuel Rabinovich and Mordechai Elias, director general of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation.

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The rabbi presented Trump with a gold-leafed Book of Psalms stamped with the president's name.

The president and rabbi read Chapters 121 and 122 from the Book.

Rabbi Rabinovich recounted the history of the site for the president, explaining that after the Temple's destruction Jerusalem's Roman rulers worked to prevent Jews from worshiping at the ruins and built the Aelia Capitolina colony on top of its remains.

"The visit by the president of the United States, Mr. Donald Trump, at the Western Wall, exactly 50 years after it was liberated, is a determined and clear statement on the Western Wall's historic importance," he said.

Before heading to the wall, the president and first lady made a brief stop at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, built at the site where Christians believe Jesus was crucified, buried and resurrected.

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