Obama private prayer leaked
A note the presidential candidate left at Judaism's holiest site was taken and
published. » What he wrote
Israeli newspaper publishes Obama's private prayer
JERUSALEM - An Israeli newspaper's decision to publish a handwritten prayer left
by Barack Obama in the cracks of Jerusalem's Western Wall drew criticism Friday
as an invasion of his privacy and his relationship with God.
In the note, placed at Judaism's holiest site Thursday, Obama asks God to guide
him and guard his family.
"Lord — Protect my family and me. Forgive me my sins, and help me guard against
pride and despair. Give me the wisdom to do what is right and just. And make me
an instrument of your will," reads the note published in Maariv.
Maariv ran a photograph of the note on its front page Friday. It said the note
was removed from the wall by a Jewish seminary student immediately after Obama
Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs would neither confirm nor deny the note was Obama's,
but the handwriting was similar to another message written by the presidential
candidate during his time in Israel this week.
The paper's decision to make the note public brought quick criticism from
religious authorities. The rabbi in charge of the Western Wall, Shmuel
Rabinovitz, called it an intrusion on Obama's intimate 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," Rabinovitz
told Army Radio.
The newspaper's action "damages the Western Wall and damages the personal, deep
part of every one of us that we keep to ourselves," he added.
Many visitors to the 2,000-year-old Western Wall leave notes in its crevices
bearing requests and prayers. Obama placed a small note and then bowed his head
during a pre-dawn visit Thursday, following a day spent in talks with Israeli
and Palestinian leaders.
The Western Wall is the lone remaining outer retaining wall of the second
biblical Jewish temple, which was destroyed by the Romans in A.D. 70. Revered as
Judaism's holiest site, it stands where the Bible says King Solomon built the
first Jewish Temple, which was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 B.C.
"It's inappropriate that the prayers of a person at the Western Wall should
become a subject of public knowledge at all," said Jonathan Rosenblum, a
Jerusalem-based analyst of the religious community and director of the Orthodox
Am Ehad think tank.
"There is a rabbinic prohibition against reading other people's private
communications, and certainly anyone who goes to the wall expects that those
communication will be protected," Rosenblum said.
Another Israeli newspaper, Yediot Ahronot, published an article Friday saying it
had also obtained the note but decided against publishing it out of respect for
Obama's privacy. Nearly all other Israeli media ignored the story.
Thousands of notes and prayers are stuffed into the cracks of the wall. In
recent years, the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, which operates the site, has
opened a fax hot line and a Web site where people overseas can send their
prayers and have them printed out and put in the wall.
The wall is emptied of its notes several times a year. The papers are treated as
a prayer book and buried, rather than burned.
While Maariv drew criticism, the removal and publication of the note did not
appear violate any laws. Police officials said they were not investigating the
The handwriting appeared to match a message that Obama wrote Wednesday in the
guest book at Yad Vashem, Israel's official Holocaust memorial. It was written
on stationery from the King David Hotel, where Obama stayed while in Israel.
Obama signed the Yad Vashem message. The note from the Western Wall was
At the Western Wall, Obama was greeted by a crowd of curious onlookers and
photographers. He donned a white skullcap, listened to a rabbi read a prayer,
and inserted a folded white paper between the stones. One hardline Israeli
protester shouted, "Obama, Jerusalem is not for sale."
The visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories was part of an international
tour meant to shore up Obama's foreign affairs credentials ahead of the November
election. Obama's prospective rival, John McCain, visited Israel in March.