Today in Jerusalem, as part of President Donald Trump’s first foreign trip, the Trump family visited the Western Wall. As is traditional, the president donned a yarmulke and placed a note in the wall, while first lady Melania Trump and first daughter Ivanka Trump prayed in the women’s section. Ivanka, a convert to Orthodox Judaism, then posted about what was undoubtedly a moving personal moment on her social media channels:
Unfortunately for Ivanka, or whoever runs her social media accounts, she gave expression to a common misconception about the Western Wall. In actuality, the site draws its sanctity only from the adjacent Temple Mount, the holiest place in Judaism where both Jewish Temples once stood. (The wall is called the Western Wall because it surrounded said Temple from the West.)
One reason that some mistakenly believe the wall to be the holiest site in Judaism is that many Jews refuse to step foot on the Temple Mount due to its sanctity, though a minority of religious authorities permit the practice. Another reason for the misconception is that even those Jews who do visit the Mount are forbidden to pray on it by the Islamic Waqf that controls the area, leaving the wall as the world’s most conspicuous Jewish prayer site. (After Israel captured Jerusalem’s holy sites in the Six-Day War of 1967, it promptly returned the Mount to Jordanian control to avoid raising regional religious tensions, and Jordan’s Waqf proceeded to ban Jewish–but not Muslim–prayer on the site.)
This was not the first time Ivanka’s social media team botched an important bit of Jewish tradition. This past September, during the heat of the election campaign, Trump posted a meme to her Instagram attributing Hillel the Elder’s famous maxim “If not now, when?” to actress Emma Watson.