Few things this POTUS has done in his first four months of office have shocked me. Every day, a barrage of new headlines hit and, like many Americans who don’t support him or his rhetoric and policies, I often feel paralyzed by the speed at which it’s all coming.
It’s hard to look away as this administration seems to be self-imploding by the minute. But in many ways, we knew what we were getting into. President Trump is the epitome of “WYSIWYG” (what you see is what you get). He’s leading exactly as he campaigned—speaking to his base, not trying to expand his reach, and upping the ante for building walls–literal and metaphorical.
He thrives on chaos and shaking things up. His supporters love this, while the rest of us are in anxious knots all the time.
At this point, none of his actions should surprise or shock us. Yet seeing him on the news yesterday in Jerusalem–quietly standing in a black kippah, touching the Western Wall and slipping a prayer note into it–that shocked me.
It not only shocked me, it disturbed me–honestly, even more than his speech at the Holocaust Memorial Museum’s National Day of Remembrance last month.
Why? Because once again, I believe in my heart of hearts he was there solely for a photo op. Yet now, he will be inscribed in the history books as the first sitting U.S. president to pray at the Western Wall. After all, everything he does has to be “the biggest,” “the best,” “the first.” Now he’s got “pray at the Western Wall” under his belt, and it feels beyond disingenuous.
I don’t believe for a second that he understood the importance of this holy site, or what it symbolizes to Jews around the world. And even if he did understand the symbolism of praying at the Wall, or the sanctity of such holy site–are we to believe he’s suddenly a man of prayer and sober reflection?
After his rhetoric about Islam during the campaign, can we he’s now a man of religious tolerance? After the recent revelations about his behavior while president, do we think that he’s a man who lives by the Ten Commandments? Far from it. This is a man who seems to worship only himself, who lies, who cheats, who has zero humility—and has been married three times. This is a man who still takes advice from anti-Semite Steve Bannon, who only recently denounced the rise in anti-Semitic hate crimes–and even then, after so much criticism, it felt forced.
No matter what he says, I will hold true to my belief he was in Jerusalem today to make history, not for the powerful experience many Jews dream of having at the Western Wall.
I am one of those Jews. Unlike the majority of my Jewish family and friends, I’ve not yet been to Israel. As part of a fellowship during college, I was supposed to go over the winter break my senior year. But when the Second Intifada broke out that fall, my parents (and some other parents) didn’t feel comfortable sending us. Those who went had an incredible, life-changing experience–and I often regret that I wasn’t with them.
Praying at the Western Wall would have been on the list of things I’d have done, and I still dream of tucking a note into the crevasses of the wall someday with my own family, bringing my kids to that spot and explaining its part in our tradition. I imagine how awe-inspiring the experience would be; thinking of the people from all faiths–and especially fellow Jews–who came here before me, understanding what the Wall means to each of us.
Yesterday, President Trump came, saw, and conquered. Yes, he’ll surely go down in the history books as the first American president to visit the Western Wall. But I don’t for second believe the experience will humble him.