JERUSALEM — Presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney visited the Western Wall, the holiest prayer site in Judaism, on Sunday, taking a break from a day of meetings with Israeli and Palestinian officials.
Romney donned a kippah, the head covering worn by observant Jew and required of men visiting the site. He was immediately surrounded by hundreds of well wishers — many Orthodox Jews wearing black hats or Tefillin as afternoon prayers proceeded around him.
“Here comes the next president! He is for Israel!” shouted one man as Romney descended the stone ramp to the plaza in front of the last remaining wall of the Second Temple compound.
Romney was making his third visit to the wall on a fast day, Tisha B’Av, which mourns the destruction of the first and second temples, as well as a host of other tragedies befalling the Jewish people, something that drew some criticism from Jews, though didn’t seem to dampen his warm reception. He didn’t make any public remarks at the wall.
He greeted donor Philip Rosen with a hug, and was accompanied to the wall by two rabbis, including Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, the Rabbi of the Kotel (Western Wall).
After Rabinowitz blessed Romney and read Psalm 121 (“The Lord watches over you…”), Romney placed a pre-written prayer in the wall, as is customary, then paused for a moment of silent prayer, leaning on the wall with his right hand. On his way out he signed a guest book.
Romney’s wife, Ann, walked to the wall via a separate women’s section, separated from her husband by a six-foot-tall barrier. She also placed a prayer in the wall and paused with her hands over the crack where she placed it.
As they returned to their cars, hundreds of people surrounded the candidate, as security tried to push them away.
“Jerusalem is the Capitol of Israel — don’t forget it,” one man shouted at Romney.
Another rabbi spoke to Scott Romney, the candidate’s brother, and aides, saying, “We wish you success. We want you to win. You need a new president.”
As Romney backed away from the wall, son Josh Romney, traveling press secretary Rick Gorka, policy director Lanhee Chen, and another aide placed notes and paused for prayer at the wall.
“Mitt Romney, God will make you president because you came to Israel,” shouted another man, as donors and supporters replied “Amen.”
Other shouts were less friendly, with one young man shouting at Romney to release his tax returns, as several older men shouted in English and Hebrew for the United States to free imprisoned Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard.