Obama’s Private Prayer, Made Public

Ben Smith, from Politico.com had the scoop first, about how the personal prayer-note that Barack Obama stuck into a crack in Jerusalem’s Wailing Wall, according to long-standing tradition, was snatched up shortly afterwards by a “yeshiva student” and conveyed to the Israeli newspaper Maariv, which published it.

This led to the sort of furor you would expect, abroad but especially in Israel, since these sort of messages are supposed to be sacred and to be read by no one else than s/he who wrote them – and God. In Germany, both the Süddeutsche Zeitung (Open Letter to God) and Der Spiegel (Uproar Over Obama’s Wailing Wall Prayer) are covering this controversy. To be honest, they don’t add much to the basic facts we already know from Ben Smith’s piece: Obama’s private prayer was stolen and published, and everyone is pretty mad about that, especially the rabbi in charge of the Wailing Wall, one Shmuel Rabinovitz, who now fears that what is in effect the promise from him and his fellow administrators that such written prayers will never be read by anyone else is now in danger of losing credibility. Oh, and although Smith writes about a “yeshiva student” committing the initial dirty deed, we still don’t know that for sure: that is just what Maariv is claiming to be their source for the note.

What I liked about the German coverage, though, was the fascinating additional details about this whole Wailing Wall note-sticking phenomenon that they provided. Did you know that, if you can’t make it to Jerusalem personally to deliver your prayer-slip to God, there exist both a fax number and e-mail address that you can use to get it there another way? Obviously, Rabbi Rabinovitz’s people will convey it from the fax/printer into the wall-cracks for you; that’s all the more reason why they need to be believed when they claim that no one will ever read it. (BTW no word on any prescribed format for the communication – maybe it would be something like a requisition slip?) As you can imagine, after a while that Wailing Wall, although massive, soon starts to have no cleft left, so that Rabbi Rabinovitz’s cadre also take care to clear out all the paper twice yearly, which they then go and bury – without burning, shredding, or otherwise disfiguring it in any way, for it is sacred.

Sleepless Wonder

Finally, I also found it very interesting to learn that Obama actually visited the Wailing Wall at 04.00 last Thursday morning, i.e. just before he caught his “O-Force One” to Berlin, where he would deliver that speech by the Siegessäule that very evening. Of course, the good Rabbi Rabinovitz made sure he himself was up in time to accompany the Democratic presidential candidate on his visit. But the Senator starting his business day that early just reminds me of this other article I saw in Berlin’s Tagesspiegel, “The Chronic Lack of Sleep of Barack Obama,” that I unearthed on the Net but did not get the chance to discuss with you, my loyal fans, in a proper entry. It basically just passes along comments from German-based sleep-scientists on how they think it is that Obama can sustain such a grueling pace of activity on his overseas tour. Clearly that must have included snatching some sleep on the plane-ride from Tel Aviv to Berlin.

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