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ISRAEL: Obama's Western Wall prayer made public

July 25, 2008 |  9:49 am


Before leaving Israel on Thursday, Barack Obama took out a sheet of King David Hotel stationery and penned a heartfelt prayer to God. It was meant to be private, but his early morning visit to the Western Wall, where he deposited the folded piece of paper into a crevice, was a public event.

As the Democratic candidate headed for the airport, a young Orthodox religious student searched the Wall until he found the note and turned it over to Maariv. The newspaper's decision to publish the prayer drew a storm of criticism in Israel.

"It was unworthy and inappropriate to publish this note," fumed Shmuel Rabinovitz, the rabbi of the Western Wall. "This violates a request that is private and personal." The rabbi's objection follows a 1,000-year-old Jewish edict against snooping on someone else's mail.

Bloggers joined in denouncing the newspaper, even as they speculated how much Obama's letter would fetch on eBay. But one critic, attorney Guy Mashiach, figured the senator probably anticipated the invasion of his privacy.

"Obama is intelligent enough to understand that in Israel, nothing remains private, discreet and secret for more than a few hours and that one mustn't count on a secret meant to be shared only by you and God for eternity being kept even in the holy of holies," he wrote on the Haaretz newspaper's web site. "Obama didn't fall into the trap of asking for John McCain's disappearance ... and penned a remarkably beautiful note, as though he had known the note would go directly to one of the more tabloid-like papers."

Read more about Obama's stolen Western Wall prayer

— Richard Boudreaux in Jerusalem

Photo: Barack Obama places a note in the Western Wall, Judaism's holiest site, in Jerusalem's Old City. Credit: Tara Todras-Whitehil / Associated Press