July 27, 2008
Yeshiva student apologizes, Obama’s prayer returned to Western Wall
Removal of note called 'sacreligious;' Obama sought God's guidance
Updated July 27
The yeshiva student who pried Barack Obama’s prayer note from the Western Wall apologized Sunday.
Identified only by the first initial of his name, Alef, and with his face obscured, the student went on Israel’s Channel 2 television to confess that he took the presidential contender’s note last week and passed it to the press.
The resulting coverage of Obama’s private, handwritten musings on hope and sin added to the mystique of his campaign visit to Israel but drew international criticism, including from leading rabbis who said Jewish morality had been compromised by the publication.
Obama, the presumptive Democratic candidate to face off against Republican John McCain in the race to succeed President Bush in November, has not commented on the episode.
“I’m sorry. It was a kind of prank,” Alef said, his hands shaking as he fingered the tightly wadded-up sheet of King David Hotel letterhead. “I hope he wasn’t hurt. We all believe he will take the presidency.”
Channel 2’s religious affairs correspondent said she had passed the note from the yeshiva student to the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, which reinserted it—deeply—between the ancient slabs of stone.
The Western Wall rabbi has condemned an Israeli newspaper for publishing a note Barack Obama left in the Wall.
Sen. Obama (D-Ill.), the presumptive Democratic nominee, visited Israel this week, and before leaving early Thursday morning, prayed at the Wall, the largest remnant of the Second Temple and the holiest site in Judaism.
A yeshiva student pulled the note, handwritten on King David Hotel stationery, out of the Wall, and Ma’ariv published it:
The decision by Maariv to make the note public on Friday drew fire. The rabbi in charge of the Western Wall, Shmuel Rabinovitz, said publishing the note intruded in Obama’s relationship with God.
“The notes placed between the stones of the Western Wall are between a person and his maker. It is forbidden to read them or make any use of them,” he told Army Radio.
The publication “damages the Western Wall and damages the personal, deep part of every one of us that we keep to ourselves,” he said.