JERUSALEM (JTA) – U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence made what is billed as a private visit to the Western Wall.
Pence and his wife, Karen, spent about 10 minutes at the site on Tuesday, the last stop on the Israel leg of the vice-president’s Middle East trip. They each approached and prayed at the wall, the vice-president in the men’s section and his wife in the women’s section.
The couple was not accompanied by any Israeli officials or politicians in keeping with the visit’s designation as private, as was President Donald Trump’s visit in May. They were, however, met by the rabbi of the Western Wall, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, who gave them a short explanation about the site and its place in Jewish history.
U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and U.S. Mideast Envoy Jason Greenblatt accompanied Pence to the site.
Pence told reporters he felt “inspired” by the Western Wall visit. In a tweet he said: “A privilege to pray at the Western Wall. This is our 4th trip to the Holy Land, but Karen & I never fail to leave without a sense our faith has been renewed – our faith in God, but also our faith in the people of Israel & their commitment to freedom, security & peace.”
Female journalists were separated from their male counterparts, behind a barrier at the site, which they said they were not informed of in advance and said that it prevented them from doing their jobs. The women used the hashtag “#PenceFence” in social media to describe the incident.
Earlier on Monday Pence visited Yad Vashem, accompanied by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, where he laid a wreath to the Jews killed in the Holocaust in the Hall of Remembrance and visited some of the displays inside the museum.
On Monday morning Pence met with Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin at his residence in Jerusalem. During the visit, Rivlin showed Pence photos in his office of Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, whose bodies are being held hostage in Gaza by the terror group Hamas. The leaders spoke of the duty to bring them home for proper burial, and of the duty to bring home three other Israeli citizens – Avraham Mengistu, Hisham al-Sayed, and Jumaa Abu Ghanima – who are being held captive by Hamas in Gaza.
In remarks in front of reporters, Rivlin thanked Pence for his speech in the Knesset the previous day. “You are very proud, always, to stand very firm behind your words in actions, and for that we have only one word to describe you, you are a ‘mensch.’”
“It is deeply meaningful for me to be able to be with you in Jerusalem, the capital of the State of Israel,” Pence said. Let me say that President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, we hope, is the clearest sign yet of the unwavering commitment of the United States of America to Israel.”