When President Trump visits Jerusalem’s Western Wall, one of the holiest Jewish sites in the world, during his trip to Israel next week, he will be the first-ever sitting US president to do so.
While every president since George H.W. Bush has visited the last standing remnant of the Holy Temple compound, also known as the Kotel, none have gone during their time in office. George H.W. Bush visited in 1998, nearly ten years after he ended his term; successor Bill Clinton did the same in 2013.
Governor George W. Bush visited in 1998 before his term, but on a presidential trip in 2008, he opted out when it was deemed too political of a move. Barack Obama placed a note between the Kotel’s ancient stones in 2008 during his presidential campaign but did not return after his election.
President Trump is scheduled to make the Old City his first stop after landing at Ben Gurion Airport on May 22. Under extremely tight security – 10,000 members of the Israeli police will take part in “Operation Blue Shield” protecting the president – Trump and his family will visit the Western Wall and likely pray at the holy site.
Some lawmakers have speculated that Trump will take the opportunity while there to declare Jerusalem the undivided capital of Israel, thereby recognizing Israeli sovereignty over East Jerusalem, a section of the city which Palestinians claim as their own capital.
However, it seems increasingly unlikely that Trump will announce the promised moving of the US embassy while his administration is focused on creating conditions for peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
In addition to the Western Wall and, it is reported, Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial, Trump will also journey by helicopter to the ancient fortress of Masada, which will be cleared of all other tourists and locked down during the presidential visit.